Building Repairs in West Vancouver, BC

Building damage requiring repair and restoration comes in two types. The first can be called acute, caused by burst water pipes, fire, and impact by a fallen tree or a misguided vehicle. The second is typically less obvious, and therefore more insidious. Causes here might be a small, slow water supply line or drain-pipe leak, possibly a rain gutter clogged and backing up, sources often minimal enough to escape notice until excessive damage has resulted. Any infiltration of water in building areas not designed to handle them will cause the same unwanted result. Beside the slow leak, insect and pest invasion are other good examples of chronic forms of building damage. The average homeowner or building manager is not likely to notice such invasions until they are well underway.

While no building damage at all is the usual aim, the acute forms are better in the sense that at least the cause is easily determined: high autumn winds blew an old elm down, a driver’s grip on the wheel slipped backing into the carport, the chimney had not been cleaned in eons, the water used to douse the flames of the resulting chimney fire introduced thousands of gallons of remedial H2O into a building interior intended by design to remain sound and dry.

Most chronic forms of building damage involve water infiltration. Life-giving water is a classic double-edged sword. While it fuels the growth of the desirable organisms we require to sustain life from carrots to meat sources, it fuels also organisms we do not see the immediate value of such as wood-rot and other fungi, as well as insects like carpenter ants and termites.

It is important to consider the many ways water can infiltrate and damage buildings. Some are largely anomalous. Seeking ingress for warmth, food and comfort, animals such as raccoons will often peel loose shingles away helping create that classic cause of infiltration: the compromised roof membrane enabling H2O ingress. While rare, a raccoon can do the damage in minutes it would take weather years to accomplish, and though such a cause is uncommon, the increasing desire for green spaces will only increase this risk. Touching on prevention, a bi-annual inspection of a building’s all-important roof system is a great idea, particularly as very little time is required to do so compared to the time output and cost of repairing advanced damage. Shortly after spring’s breeding period, and prior to winter are the best times to inspect. Along these lines of prevention, it is never a good idea to ignore a roof membrane in bad repair. It could be said that opposite the first thought that a building starts at the ground, building health starts with its roof membrane.

Given an opportunity, water will enter just as easily from the ground, working its way up. A given building’s concrete foundation often works as a dam, stopping or limiting water’s natural inclination to seek the lowest ground as any hydroelectric project will attest. Perimeter drain systems are intended to prevent damming. Many people are unaware of this important aspect of positive building health. This underground piping system intends to help water move easily to its low point by preventing potentially damaging accumulations that will cause water to rise up instead of move down as it naturally does. Perimeter drainage systems are even more important on hillsides where water has more velocity, and further, may be channeled into streams, either above ground or below, just as can be seen on almost every geographical map.

Further, we are all familiar with the erosive power of flowing water, and over time, moving water will dislodge substrate materials like dirt, sand and stone. The smaller particles of these substrate materials—usually called “fines”—may then accumulate in a building’s underground perimeter drainage system, creating another kind of dam that restricts the desirable drain-away effect intended by the system’s design. Touching on prevention again, it is a good idea to inspect perimeter drainage systems periodically. Some building codes make this easier by dictating cleanouts of the sort found in interior systems. Modern technology greatly aids this inspection; camera lenses are now attached to flexible “snakes,” which are then inserted into drainage pipes, allowing a great visual inspection.