Downspouts are a very important, often times overlooked, component of every home’s waterproofing system. They are responsible for properly draining the rainwater sheet flow that collects in gutters and then diverting or “conducting” it away from your home’s foundation. Downspouts ran above ground should conduct rainwater at least 4 feet away from the foundation. Water that is allowed to accumulate around the foundation can and will eventually find it’s way into your home causing moisture issues and possibly structural damage.
Another option that allows you to conduct your downspouts as far away from your foundation as possible without creating obstructions in your yard is to do so beneath the ground. These conductors can be ran to discharge or “daylight” in an area of the yard that sits lower than your home or straight to the curb and gutter system at the street. It is very important to note that the effectiveness of your home’s downspouts are greatly diminished if the gutter system around the roof is faulty, damaged, or improperly installed.
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When considering basement renovations, you must also account for all applicable local building codes. If any habitable spaces or bedrooms are being constructed in your basement, then an appropriate “means of egress” will be required by both International Residential Code R310 and Ohio Residential Code 4101:1-10
Egress defined simply means an exit or a means of exiting from an enclosed place. Residential codes mandate that egress windows are required in the event that any habitable rooms are constructed in a basement. Furthermore, where basements contain one or more sleeping rooms, emergency egress and rescue openings shall be required in each sleeping room, but shall not be required in adjoining areas of the basement. Such openings shall open directly into a public way or yard. The main purpose of these codes are to ensure that adequate escape routes are in place in the event of emergency situations such as fires, while also providing rescue personnel a way to enter the lower level of your home.
Residential codes also set minimum requirements for the size and dimensions of egress windows. These requirements are in place to ensure proper clearance through your means of egress and are listed below:
Egress openings minimum net clear opening: 5.7 square feet (this must be achieved as a result of the normal operation of the opening).
- Egress maximum sill plate height from floor: 44 inches (when code mandates that an egress window needs to be installed with a finished sill height below the adjacent ground level, which will be the case in most basements, then a Window Well will be required as well in accordance with code).
- Egress minimum net clear opening height: 24 inches
- Egress minimum net clear opening width: 20 inches (an egress opening of minimum size requirements will not meet code as a window measuring – 20″w x 24″h – will only result in an egress opening of 3.34 sq. ft. Openings measuring 20”w x 42”h or 35”w x 24”h will fall within code as they will both result in net clear openings of 5.84 sq. ft.
- Egress openings must be operational from the inside of the room without the use of keys or any special tools.
Casement windows are an excellent option for “means of egress” as they crank to swing open taking up a minimal amount of wall space while still meeting code requirements.
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Sewer Line Repair
There are two main parts of any sewage system. The line connects to a septic tank or to a public sewer stub at the property line and carries sewage to the treatment plant. The “lateral” line is the line that connects a property to the main line. It is the property owner’s responsibility to repair and maintain the lateral line. Sewer lines have the potential to fail for a number of reasons with invasive tree roots being the most common. If tree roots are found to cause a clog or stoppage, then it is indicative that there is a hole, crack, or separation in the pipe. Tree roots can travel great distances in their search for moisture and will enter even the smallest crack or hole in your sewer line. Degraded or corroded pipes, blockages, and pipes that have separated or have leaking joints are also common causes resulting in failure of the system.
Indications that your sewer line is experiencing problems would include but are not limited to:
- Water backed up on the floor around the floor drain
- Gurgling in lower level toilets or floor drains
- The smell of raw sewage coming from the drains
- Having to have the line cleaned more than once every two years
Your home’s sanitary system may even be experiencing problems without any indications being present. Sewage lines can be 50% to 90% blocked with no indications that there is a problem under normal use. A sudden increase in usage under these circumstances, such as around the holidays or during large gatherings, may overwhelm the system resulting in back-ups, making it quite clear that there is an issue.
Video Pipeline Inspection
The traditional method of repairing a damaged or blocked sewage line is to “trench” or “open cut” the yard in order to gain access to the affected portion of pipe. Other methods of repair such as “pipe relining,” pipe bursting, and “trenchless” repairs that require no digging, resulting in a far less invasive solution to the issue. The easiest way to locate and identify the source of the problem is with a video pipeline inspection. During this process, a camera on the end of a flexible cable is ran down your branch lines, or the pipes that lead from bathtubs and faucets to the house’s sewer line, enabling the technician to get an up-close detailed look at what problems exist in the system. This non-destructive process of inspection is far less intrusive than systematically digging up your yard to locate the problem.
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Water Line Repair
Water service lines deliver fresh, clean water directly to your home. This single supply line travels beneath your property from the water main near the street to the point where it enters your home. Generally, this line will be metered on the inside of your home before it is then dispersed throughout the plumbing. Although these lines will typically work perfectly for years, over time, aging and environmental conditions can cause deterioration and damage to them. High water pressure, freeze-thaw cycles, ground settlement, and invasive tree roots are just a few other factors that may play a role. Recurring wet areas in your yard, drops in water pressure, or a discoloration of your water are usually good indicators that you may have a water line issue.
Leaks on the inside of your home are usually visible and relatively easy to find. Determining the origin of the leak on the outside of your home may be a little more challenging. Things to look for in this case are sunken or eroded areas of ground, damp sidewalks or driveways, or damp areas in your yard with lush sections of grass. Once the leak is found, then the proper repair can be made.
In most cases, only small sections of the water service lines are damaged and in need of repair. The faulty sections of line are removed and replaced with the appropriate size and type of material according to code. Water service lines from the water main to your home range anywhere between ¾ to 2 inches in diameter and could be made of plastic, copper, or galvanized iron pipe. The type of material and size of the service line are determined by local municipal code.
Once installed, a pressure test on the water service will be conducted to verify that the issue has been properly resolved. Once a final inspection is performed by your local water service provider, the repair will be backfilled and all efforts will be made to restore your property.
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Window wells can add value and curb appeal to your home while transforming your basement into a more comfortable living space. They allow more natural light and ventilation in while providing a safe means of egress which is required by building codes in some cases.
When installed as a means of egress, they must meet certain requirements in order to be code compliant. Those requirements are:
- Window wells must allow for the egress window to be opened fully.
- Window wells must have a minimum 36 inch width and a minimum 36 inch length floor area resulting in 9 square feet of clearance in the bottom of the well.
- Window wells that are 40 inches or deeper require permanently affixed ladders or steps that are at least 12 inches wide and within 18 inches of the well floor.
- A minimum of 48 inches of clearance is required when window wells are located beneath decks on a home.
Pictured above: Rockwell Window Wells
When installed properly, window wells will keep soil and water away from foundation windows. Proper drainage is critical during the installation process. If the well does not drain properly, then excess water can collect and leak through the window. The floor of the window well is filled with clean stone to allow the water to percolate down to the exterior drainage system and be conducted away. The use of polycarbonate well covers also help to keep water and debris out of the well preventing possible drainage issues. Window wells deeper than 4 feet should employ these covers or optional steel grates as a means to protect against accidental falls into the well.