Building Repairs in Burnaby, BC

Adding to much organic-containing material during backfilling and landscaping is an all too common problem that experienced observation regularly notes. In fact, it is not unusual to see soil piled up directly against siding materials such as wood, cement board, vinyl and stucco. Obviously the thinking is that this suits the lay of the land and is aesthetically pleasing. Also, it is done because backfilling and landscaping efforts have not observed another building code stipulation: that the grade immediately adjacent a building’s footings or foundation slope away from that building a given number of degrees and for a given distance. All too commonly, by piling soils against the building, that slope can be achieved, but at the peril of the building itself. Returning to preventative maintenance thinking, it is wise to survey a given building, watching specifically for that minimum distance.

Note that these same building codes dictate a minimum distance of two inches (5 cm) between wood and non-organic materials like concrete. Assuming fungi-containing organic materials are kept clear, it’s a good minimum guideline. But there is another factor to be considered. That is the splash effect. Water pooled on two inched of concrete may be considered well clear of wood, but water introduced to that area by a hose or regular dripping from a gutter can put that water dangerously close to structural and finish wood and other prone siding materials.

Note also that many siding materials—the first line of defense against the exterior environment—are not necessarily impermeable to water. Unless specially treated, stucco and other masonry-based materials are not. Yes, vinyl is, but water can, under various conditions like splashing, allow water entrance between vinyl trim-work and the envelope behind it. Paints and stains of any kind don’t provide much of an anti-water barrier either. They wear and erode also, soon losing the slick, water-repellent patina offered when newly applied. Quality in paints and stains is a huge factor in terms of longevity, of both the products themselves, and the buildings they adorn.

Regarding the high-risk area at the junction of building base and grade, no attention to damage control can be too great. Some place stock in the use of treated wood in high risk areas. Assuming flawless wood quality alongside perfect application of treatment chemicals, we are then dependent on expert installation quality, the knowledge that where that treated wood is cut to fit, it is also subsequently and properly treated. Yes, treated wood well used will help, but it is no be-all-end-all in itself. Regular inspection is. In general, all claims of durability of products should be regarded as questionable, but the value and benefit of regular inspections cannot be questioned. Nothing beats a thoughtful gander as a first line of defense against building issues.

Assuming that H2O ingress efforts have failed and the prone elements of a building are under threat, what is the next step on the trail back to building health? First, as mentioned, acute building damage is usually easily diagnosed, but the causes of chronic forms are almost always much harder to determine. Naturally, we are as quick to conclude a repair is in order as we are to readily pick up a cherished dropped item. Yet, excepting an emergency situation, the first step is, of course, diagnosis of cause. Without this step, a repair might be undertaken and completed, yet damage reoccurs because the cause has not been discovered and addressed. For instance, if the cause has been the piling up of organic material against a building’s prone base as discussed earlier, making sure that scenario doesn’t reoccur is the preventative solution. Then the repair can begin, all the while knowing these efforts will not require repeating months or years later. That’s a simple fix. But how about standing on a flat tar and gravel or torch-on roof which, due to its construction, has managed to trap a thick layer of water, or worse yet, ice. Worse still, what if the overall roofed surface area covers veritable acres as has been the case with the famed leaky condos?