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How to winterize your pipes


Preparing for Winterization

There two different approaches for attempting to winterize your plumbing. One is winterizing the house when it is going to be left absent, however you should consider this every season regardless, as you want to prepare for the cold weather as you’re still living in it!

prepare for winter

The first obvious water supply to consider is the outside hose pipe. This should be drained and closed to protect the tap outside from bursting during cold weather. Another target areas are cold rooms. Even if they meant to be cold, there are still plumbing pipes running through them. Most of the time cold rooms are located at the front of the house and main water service pipe comes through it. In this case it is very important that there still be a minimal amount of heat getting to the room and to least ensure the temperature does not drop below 0 Celsius. It is common for plumbing pipes to freeze behind the drywall during cold weather events on both the first and second floors. This is normally a problem with the insulation job that was done and  should be addressed at the time of renovation. If freezing is regularly happening we recommend opening the wall at problem areas and insulate affected pipes.

frozen pipes

The danger of a freezing pipe is that when the water freezes it expands and can burst the pipe and this can lead of major damage to the house. A quick temporary solution is to keep water running in one of the taps when weather is coldest…even it running just a little will help keep the pipes from freezing.

If the house has a sump pump it is very important to protect the discharge pipe from freezing. Pipe should be properly slopped, stay at least half a foot higher than the ground and the end should be frequently checked and cleared of any ice build up.

Steps for Winterizing Your Plumbing

If you will be leaving your home for an extended period of time the following steps should be followed:

  • Open all drain valves and all taps. A closed tap could create a vacuum that will hold water inside of pipes and make sure to leave them open all winter (you aren’t there)
  • Shut off the main water valve, turn off the water pump and the water heater. No water in the water heater can cause damage to operating heating elements.Blow excess standing water out of the pipes using an air compressor
  • Check all sink and tub drains that could have drain traps. Add some antifreeze on each one of them to prevent water from freezing in the traps.
  • Open the drain valve in your hot water tank and let it discharge until it is empty.
  • Drain all the water that is left in the holding tank. Add antifreeze to the jet pump case.
  • Flush toilets to remove as much water as you can from the tanks and the toilet bowls.

pipes insulatation

How to Prevent Freezing Pipes

The most important thing to do first is determine which pipes in your home are the most vulnerable to freezing. Pipes near walls, located outside and near unheated spaces are places to look. Also check for any cracks or openings in walls and windows, and uninsulated pipes.

Be sure to follow these tip to winterize your plumbing:

  • While inspecting the exterior of your home and find any gaps or cracks use caulking or spray foam to keep cold air from entering your house
  • A slowly dripping can in some cases prevent freezing; moving water is that much more resistant to freezing in pipes.
  • Insulate crawl spaces; block all vents that lead to the outside using cardboard or wood.
  • Insulate pipes with insulation sleeves, wrapping or slip-on foam pipe insulation. Plastic piping is more tolerant of freezing than older metal pipes.
  • Additional heading sources inside the building can protect pipes against cold. One tip is to keep your kitchen and bathroom drawers and cupboards open, this will allow heat from the house to get in behind cabinetry and bring some heat to piping.
  • Heat tape can be useful; it is one of the preferred methods for winterizing plumbing


Call for your Wintering Plumbing Experts at DrainCom! 416-989-5757

What to do with leak in the basement?


I have a basement leak!

As a professional and trusted basement technician at DrainCom for the last 20 years I have encountered many reasons for homes to produce and develop basement leaks.

How do you know if you have a leak?

Naturally the first thought anyone might have is this is a plumbing issue…and you would be right to make this assumption first. You need to have your plumbing inspected, to at least eliminate this issue. The reason you go for plumbing first is this would be the ‘worst case’ scenario, there may be an active leak at possibly high pressure getting into your house (as opposed to other sources – storms, foundation cracks, etc. A good example of a true plumbing issue (and not a basement waterproofing problem)….is if water is dripping through the ceiling in the living room on the ground floor, or if you see the water in the basement but only when the toilet upstairs is flushed, then definitely again you’ll need a plumber.

At DrainCom performing basement waterproofing inspections in Toronto and GTA we use infrared cameras and moisture detectors. Sometimes the place where the basement is leaking is obvious, but if the basement is finished and basement walls are covered it is not easy to find the problem, in those cases those devices become useful.

Leaks in your basement does not necessarily mean a leaking basement

Simple gravity is the reason you will find rainwater at its final, inevitable destination – your basement. Gravity can be especially aggravating during heavy rains, building envelope leaks and basement leaks. This will be even more relevant when you consider you main floor kitchen sink plumbing is leaking into the cabinets beneath. One of or other you can count on this ending up in your basement.

Heavy rains will stress a vulnerable roof and eventually it will leak. Rain over the years pounding against your windows, doors, and the brick veneer or siding can evntually cause damage. Heavy rains as discussed can cause your eavestroughs to spill over the side and your downspouts to discharge potentially hundreds of gallons of water in a very short period of time. Backyard floods can lead to hydrostatic pressure against your foundation walls and cause the water table to rise. Heavy rains can overload the neighbourhood storm sewer system and cause your basement floor drain to back up.

Of course if during a thunderstorm you can see water coming through a crack in a foundation, then you likely have a basement leak. Finished basements can make this determination more difficult and will require more investigation.

How eavestroughs and downspouts cause basement leaks

Homeowners can report that they have a leaky basement as a result of water pouring over the side of their eavestroughs.

Water permeates the soil along the foundation walls after water pours over the sides of an eavestrough, instead of draining via the down eaves trough portion. This can result in i increased hydrostatic pressure (water pressure against the foundation walls) as the height of the water table next to the wall increases If the foundation walls are properly waterproofed then water will not be able to enter the basement.

Downspouts, to a much greater extent than leaking eavestroughs, introduce significant hydrostatic pressure against a foundation. In spite of eavestrough leaks, a properly waterproofed foundation will not leak.

To reduce hydrostatic pressure against the foundation it is recommended that downspouts drain water 2 to 3 meters away from the house.

How do I deal with floor backed up drains?

Storm sewers below the street can become overloaded and incapable of handling all of the water entering them during heavy rain events. In this case storm sewers will use the path naturally of least resistance…and in some instances, this path of least resistance is the floor drain in your basement! Drains “backup up” through floor drains is a really unpleasant experience as you would guess. There is only one way to fix this and that is to avoid it in the first place: by installing a backwater valve in the drain pipe from your floor drain to the sewer. A backwater valve will allow water to travel from your floor drain to the storm sewer and also prevent water from flowing from the storm sewer back to your home.

Incorrect assumptions, poorly and/or quickly done inspections, lack of expertise and plumbing contractor greed are the main reasons that homeowners spend money waterproofing a basement with no serious issues. Getting a second opinion, especially when spending $1000s of dollars is never a bad idea.

How do I determine where the leak is?

Next would be the inspection of the basement walls from outside the home. Your house foundation is the most solid structure and if there are some cracks below the ground on a foundation wall they would extend above ground. Most of the cracks appear close to windows and doors, which is normally where house walls are weaker. Most of the basement leaks happen due to cracks in the foundation wall. At DrainCom we are specialists in fixing these types of problems using the latest and greatest (best) technology. We will also provide transferable life time warranty on most foundation repairs.

Call the Basement Leak Experts at DrainCom: 416-989-5757

Should I replace my basement drains?


Basement drain problems?

I get this question often from worried customers about the condition of their homes’ plumbing and basement drains…most of us know drain replacement can be an expensive project. Additionally, work might include restoring the basement floors and/or work on outside landscaping if there are issues beyond the basement walls.

Given how important the drainage system in your home can be I normally give this example of its importance: When it comes to the roof, we normally don’t think twice and immediately have it fixed …otherwise as we all know there can be major costs and damage in the near future. You could say the same with home basement drains, and in my opinion it is very much worth the work to repair…not to mention sewage is full of bacteria and should be definitely be dealt with.

When done properly drain installation in your home should last for many decades. Believe it or not I’ve seen 100 year old basement drains in good working condition. However consider yourself lucky if you can get 40-60 years from your drainage system. Drain lifespan can depend on how well the installation was done, as well as the soil condition…this can play a big role. In softer, wet grounds drains are more likely to shift and develop cracks.

What basement drain material can mean

The material used to make basement drains is also very important. Over the last 30-40 years plastic drain pipes have become widely used in Toronto and surrounding areas. Plastic pipes are lighter, easier to install and work with, somewhat flexible, and do not easily crack and therefore have a long lifespan….and should last normally for 50 years. However since these are recent developments in pipe construction it is hard to say how they fare in the long run…time will tell! Drain pipes are traditionally made of clay, which is a quite good solid pipe but has its weaknesses.

If you find yourself asking the question “Should I replace the basement drain or just wait another couple years?“ …most likely you are probably having drainage backup, a smell in the basement or some other reason as you’ve probably called the plumber. The first step is to determine the condition of the pipe drain using a video camera (this can be a challenge if the pipe is collapsed and system is full of water; making it difficult to diagnose….the video camera is essential for finding and locating the exact location of problem area).

Check the condition of the basement drain

If the pipe is collapsed and the snake cannot be used, then normally we would recommend drain replacement…this is the only solution.

If there is ground shifting, etc.…this might mean that two pieces of the drain pipe are unaligned; this is normally visible by bumps in the piping/ground. It is very important to replace these pipes and systems in the near future as the drain can be clogged with solid waste can build up.

Trees and grease the enemy of basement drains, oh my!

drainage treesWe’ve noticed that tree and shrubbery roots growing in basement drains becoming an increasing issue for homeowners in Toronto and GTA. Often roots can be cleared with a snake, but the ongoing problem is that cracks and openings in the drain pipe can allow roots to cause major damage. Short term solutions like clearing the roots with an electrical snake are not recommended as they will just grow back within 3-4 months and you’ll be calling the plumber all over again, likely with even more irreparable damage….i.e. drain replacement!

Often the drain pipe can get clogged by what gets into a drain accidentally, like a toy, small ball or small towel or rag. This problem can be easily cleaned and there is no reason for this to happen again. In these cases no drain replacement is needed.

Another common issue is kitchen grease, this can be a real problem! Drain pipes are installed in the ground under the basement floor and normally are the same temperature as the soil. Because of this grease can cool down and harden on the pipe walls. This can cause slow running drains and sewer backups. The best solution for this problem is usually the electric snake and high pressure water jetting. For very difficult cases replacement might be the only solution….however this is rare.

Make sure to always get a second opinion!…or get it done right the first time…

So back the question: Should I replace my basement drains?…

…if answer is Yes, then call the Basement Drain Experts at DrainCom: 416-989-5757

How to choose the right sewage pump?


Sewage pump problems! Which pump to install.

A customer of ours had rebuilt his home located in south Etobicoke and was facing what looked like a simple change of having a sewage pump installed in his basement to direct all the basement sanitary waste to main sanitary drain. Unfortunately the builder made a mistake and installed the new concrete slab lower than the level of existing old floor. As a result of this all drains in the basement had to be lowered.

Once this job was completed the sewage pump could be installed.

liberty sewage pump

Later after renting his basement to two families we starting getting calls after about a month and once every month after that because his pump was constantly breaking down. Issue had nothing do do with the pump, the issue was what was being sent into the sewage tank.

Typically, in residential applications, sewage is pumped from a sewage basin to a sewer system or a septic tank. A sewage pump is installed at the lowest point of the sewage basin. The basin itself is placed at or below the floor level of the basement.

Sewage Pumps

Sewage pump handle waste from homes, offices and anywhere with W/C facilities. These are the most popular for most domestic applications, and should not be used for commercial applications. They will not handle sanitary products and products inc nappies, napkins etc. These are typically “50mm solids handling pumps” and the most popular for homes. Normally we use proven ½ h.p. Liberty pump that has a respectable 2 year warranty. You cannot expect that people who rent your basement waterproofing to be particularly careful what they are throwing into the drain system. That is the most inconvenient situation for a homeowner.

Grinder Pumps

Grinder pumps are sewage pumps but with the added benefit of being able to handle solid products thoroughly.   A grinder pump has an impeller that is made like blades. There is a good product on the market called Liberty ProVore-380 Sewage pump with grinder. This pump is awesome. It can eat anything from plastic bags to a beach towel. The pump is expensive (approx. $2000 plus installation) but compared to the inconvenience and cost of having plumbing company to be on site once a month it is definitely a good choice. Preassembled units gives us the security that the pump will not shift to the side during use and won’t jam the float. Additionally, this sewage pump has an alarm system. We do recommend our customers this excellent solution for sometimes careless tenants.

How long should my sewage pump last?

This can be a difficult question to answer and will vary for all different instances….a lot like knowing how long your sofa, your sink, or your car will last. One important factor is simply how long and how often the sewage pump is running. So in this case a large household combined with a smaller sewage pit will run longer than let’s say a smaller family and a larger pit in the same sized house. Naturally, the pump that runs more is not going to last as long as the one that doesn’t have to work as hard. Choosing a pump for the size of the job and that has good electrical supply will ensure the longest possible life for your pump.

As amazing as sump pump products can be, believe it or not….not everyone needs and, if your house is designed “properly”, you never will. It’s not something you should automatically have to say “oh I have a well provisioned home”.

Sump Pumps – Flooding

Flooding is the number one reason for requiring a sump pump in your house. Even those homes with water problems in the basement there may be other, more inexpensive ways to resolve this issue that resorting to a sump pump and pit.

Most houses will have some dampness in the basement in the summer, but it is rarer home that gets flooded. Most of the time a damp basement is dealt with by a humidifier. Some dampness in summer, yes, but nothing a dehumidifier couldn’t handle! Home buying tip: Make sure you get a tour of the basement, IF there are water problems the basement is the likely location. If there’s evidence of a significant water problem (such as an active sump pit and pump or high-water marks on the walls), this is a danger sign…be wary of viewing any more of this home. A wet basement is going to cause all sorts of problems beyond water like rot, rust, mold and unhealthy air.

Ways to Avoid Basement Flooding

If you’ve found the house of your dreams, or if after purchasing you’re dealing with flooding, consider all available options to stop water from entering. Installing a sump pump can be messy, so another solution may be better….only if you’ve properly diagnosed the problem. For example an outdoor curtain drain can divert water back out to Mother Nature, like a local pond.

Non-functioning or non-existing gutters in the right place around your foundation can also make a big difference. Walkways, patios, or pool deck sloping toward your house instead of away can contribute to hundreds of gallons of water as your new problem. Re-leveling slabs so they drain away from the house, removing many types of patios and reinstalled with the proper slopes without too much expense can be quality moves.

Call the Basement Drain Pump Experts at DrainCom: 416-989-5757

What I Need to Do If My Basement Starts to Leak?


What to do with leak in basement

As a professional basement technician at DrainCom for last 20 years I have seen many basement leaks for many reasons.

First thing to do is confirm it is not a plumbing issue. For example if the water is dripping through the ceiling in the living room on ground floor then definitely it is not a basement waterproofing problem. If you see water in the basement but only when the toilet upstairs is flushed, definitely you should call a plumber.

DrainCom has performing countless basement waterproofing inspections in Toronto and GTA, including use of  infrared cameras and moisture detectors. Sometimes is it obvious where the basement is, but if the basement is finished and basement walls are covered it can be difficult to find the problem, in those cases these tools become very useful.

Next would be the inspection of basement walls from outside. The solid structure of your home is the house foundation and if there are some cracks below the ground on a foundation wall they would extend above ground. Most of the cracks appear close to windows and doors, this is where house walls are weaker. Most of the basement leaks happen due to cracks in the foundation wall. We at DrainCOm are specialists in fixing those using the best technology, as well we provide a transferable life time warranty on most foundation repairs.

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