Building Repairs in North Vancouver, BC

In the event a perimeter drainage system has not included above-ground clean-out ports, as the system is not under pressure, it is possible to dig out an access to piping for inspection, and almost as easy to install a cleanout or two in some unobtrusive location, usually at or near a building’s corners. This minor reparation will make future inspection much more expedient.

Keeping an eye on groundwater flow is always a good idea in support of building health. Underground flow can result in a general saturation, or as mentioned, is often concentrated in stream flows. These in turn can erode substrate materials that not only plug perimeter drains, but can also undermine a building’s foundation. This can happen quickly, which is usually observed sooner than later, but it can also happen over many years, making the effect difficult to see until major structural damage has already occurred. It is a smart damage-control measure to check for soggy, swampy areas on properties, which typically indicate water’s natural pursuit of lowland is being impeded, likely with deleterious effect. Sometimes, there is nowhere to drain water away, the reason many properties in Florida and in other regions of low land make for inexpensive land values. In general, in the interest of building health, always be sure that from roof to grade, water always has a quick, easy path of egress away from those valuable components of properties like wood and concrete that may seem durable—and usually are—until exposed to excessive amounts of water.

Building codes stipulate prevention measures that if ignored, result in one of the most common causes of building damage: wood rot due to fungal invasion. Though a building’s control of water from roof to grade is a great start, it is equally important to ensure that organic materials like dirt are a minimum of eight inches (20 cm) away from exterior woodwork, particularly structural woodwork like sill or sole plates, studs, and sheathing materials. There are two immediate reasons for this, the first being that soils easily harbour high moisture levels, and second, that these soils almost surely contain fungal spores that, in the presence of water, and with the aid of other factors, soon develop into a wood-consuming organism that reduces fine handiwork to dust in mere months and years.

Wood rot fungi is another double-edged sword. Without them, we would not be here to write and read this article. Fungi are nature’s crucial recycling agents, helping the natural cycling of organic materials—usually, but not always, already dead—become available to other life forms. Not capable of photosynthesis themselves, they consume materials that have previously been photosythesizers, materials like wood. What are these fungi looking for? Wood contains mostly cellulose, which is like tasty sugar to this lifeform. But to get at this treat, a chemical reaction requiring H2O is required that enables fungi to break down cellulose into the digestible form it prefers. This would not be such a problem were most buildings not made of, from the fungi perspective, cellulose, not wood as we tend to think.

20 centimetres or 8 inches, the minimum distance between wood and soil stipulated for building health, is not a lot. That’s the length of a small trout, a larger dew worm, and not a great distance even for a flea. In new construction, we might like to think that building inspectors, contractors and workers, and other interested parties ensure this minimum requirement is achieved. However, few systems are fault-free, and unless people are aware of the risks of soil/wood contact, errors are easily overlooked. Further, post construction activities like landscaping done improperly can easily decrease that minimal distance so carefully observed by the builder during back-filling.