Humidity in the basement

Mold in the basement

The presence of mold and moisture in the basement can cause deterioration of building materials, especially those in direct contact with the moisture source. For example, it could be the wooden structure of the floor that rests on the concrete slab on wet ground or the rotting of the ends of the wooden beam (embedded in the foundation walls). Thus, moisture rises in the concrete, by capillarity, and attacks the wooden structure that touches the concrete.

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Water infiltration problem

Infiltration of water in the basement

In most cases, water infiltration requires rapid intervention measures. The causes of water infiltration are multiple, such as lack of maintenance of the vertical and horizontal envelope of the building, deficiencies due to improper installation of the components of the envelope, normal wear and old materials. that have exceeded their useful life and sometimes it is the occupants who engage in inappropriate activities.

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Brick wall fasteners

metal fasteners

It should be noted that masonry fasteners transfer lateral load from the wall to the building structure, and then prevent lateral wall movement to the outside. This can cause the brick wall to collapse.
The installation of metal fasteners is essential for the lateral stability of brick walls. It is essential that the installation respects the rules of the art and the Building Code in force. Thus, the fasteners must absolutely withstand lateral forces and corrosion.
In the old buildings, at the beginning of the construction of the brick walls, they were fastened against the wooden planks with the help of nails which corroded, with time, and were detached from the structure of the wooden planks . This caused bulges in the brick wall [colloquially known as beef belly].

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Carpenter ants and hidden vice

Carpenter ants

It is very difficult for ordinary mortals to differentiate the harmless black ant from the carpenter ant. The distinction is paramount in the case of a prosecution for hidden vice. Indeed, only the presence of carpenter ants, among all insects, gives the right to a recourse in hidden vice against the former owner. However, case law has established that the mere presence of carpenter ants is not necessarily a hidden defect (Li c Boutilier, Court of Quebec, 2006). As Mario Naccarato emphasizes, "despite the hidden nature of the presence of carpenter ants (...) the only hidden character affecting a vice is not enough to engage the responsibility of the seller".

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Buildings on clay soils

Cracks in the foundation walls

Foundations, including walls and footing, distribute building loads on the floor. For this reason, the movements of the foundations (walls and footings) affect the structure of the building as well as the elements of the envelope and the interior finish. In case of movement of foundations, it is important to check and solve the problem of stability of foundations, before proceeding to repair the structure and components affected by this movement. Indeed, if the movement continues, the damage in the interior elements and in the envelope will worsen.

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Spring floods of 2017

Waterproof foundations

"Exceptional floods occurred in the spring of 2017 in several Quebec municipalities. The flood waters affected 278 municipalities, flooded over 5 300 residences and forced the evacuation of more than 4 000 people as well as the closure of several roads "as recalled by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs (MAMOT).

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Inspection of new buildings


In Quebec, the pre-acceptance inspection of new housing (houses and condos) is governed by the "Regulation respecting the Guarantee Plan for New Residential Buildings". It is mandatory except for condominium buildings (divided co-ownership) of more than 4 superimposed private portions, undivided co-ownerships and converted condo buildings. All new individual home buyers must contribute and all residential construction contractors must be accredited. Thus, the builder and the buyer must inspect the property together if there is a guarantee plan for it. This inspection marks the end of the work and the start of the warranty.

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Façades, parking and law 122

Facades of buildings

In Quebec, tragic accidents have forced the legislator to intervene so that the owners properly maintain the facades of their building and the parking lots. Façades are an essential component of the building envelope. They therefore require regular maintenance to prevent deterioration and corrosion of its elements. Otherwise, there may be detachment and collapse of facade components, posing a direct threat to public safety.

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Hidden vice "Two precautions are better than one"

Hidden defects

In this second bulletin, Me Sébastien Tisserand, of the law firm Mercier Leduc, analyzes Patenaude v. Canada. Trépanier. In this case, a buyer purchased a house in the 60 years, but refused to have a pre-purchase inspection done with an inspector, as he believed he had the necessary knowledge to inspect himself.
This decision has brought him many inconveniences and considerable monetary losses. The Court considered that he had not acted as a prudent and diligent buyer and rejected all his claims.

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Thermal losses in the building envelope

Thermal losses

We continue with our theme of the building envelope by addressing the issue of heat losses. Infrared thermography allows the analysis of the thermal resistance of a building and the discovery of heat loss points and points with low thermal resistance.

The factor R designates the degree of thermal resistance of the materials. The more efficient the insulation, the higher the R factor. Briefly, we discuss some causes of heat loss and give tips to minimize the effects of heat loss.

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Control of heat transfer, air leaks and condensation

Heat transfer, heat losses

The role of the building envelope is to protect the occupants from bad weather and to ensure thermal comfort in all seasons. Unfortunately, the external natural elements as well as the pollution affect the envelope and cause, with time, the deterioration of the components of this envelope.
However, there is also an enemy inside the envelope, namely condensation. The phenomenon of condensation in the building envelope can be caused by the diffusion of water vapor into the warm air, inside, or by air leakage through the envelope.
In this article, it will also discuss the effect of chimney, the importance of the installation of a vapor barrier and an air barrier and the airtightness of the envelope.

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Why an expert for pre-purchase?

Pre-purchase inspection

Even though the pre-purchase inspection is not mandatory in Quebec, it is highly recommended because it allows potential buyers to know the general condition of a building. During his visit, the building specialist identifies the major apparent defects that were perceptible to the eye (visual inspection).
It should be noted, however, that the pre-purchase inspection is not an inspection of compliance with the various codes or standards. It's a general inspection and not an expertise. In his pre-purchase report, the inspector indicates the order of severity of the deficiencies and mentions the maintenance work as well as the urgent repairs to be made.
In this article, we discuss the subject of the legal warranty of the seller and we give you some tips to ensure the smooth conduct of the inspection with your building expert.

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Counter brick wall

metal fasteners

The old construction method with solid brick load-bearing walls has been replaced, over time, by a system consisting of a supporting structure of wood (or concrete) and a masonry counter-wall, usually of brick.
In this article, the engineer deals with deficiencies or deteriorations that affect the facades composed of a structural support system and non-load bearing brick walls (modern buildings). These include, but are not limited to, plugging, blooming on bricks, cracked or missing sealing joints, corrosion on lintels and steel angles, shearing and cracks in joints. bricks, cracked vertical mortar joints and hollowed mortar joints.

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Condensation on windows

condensation on the windows

Although building owners take many precautions and maintain a humidity level between 30% and 50% inside the building, condensation and ice accumulation problems can still occur.
The National Building Code 2010 includes a section on window performance, the new NAFS standard that replaces the A-440 standard.
In this article, the engineer lists some of the causes of condensation and explains this phenomenon as well as that of relative humidity. Subsequently, it indicates the actions to be taken to reduce the condensation on the windows.

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Inverted Elastomeric Membrane (Condo Buildings)

Elastomeric membrane

There is now a whole range of roofing materials, which sometimes makes it difficult for homeowners (residential, commercial and industrial) to choose when replacing their roofs. It must be said, from the outset, that there are two categories for coatings, either for sloping roofs and for flat roofs.
This article details the analysis, the work and the steps taken by the building engineer when replacing the roof of a condominium building, ie an inverted elastomeric membrane for the case under study.
Usually for roofs with a steep slope, there is a cover of asphalt shingles or sheet steel (Canadian roof). On the other hand, roofs with a slight slope are often covered with an asphalt and gravel membrane.

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How to detect air leakage points?

infiltrometry test

The infiltrometry technique was developed by scientists in the 70 years. Thermographic inspectors and building engineers use the infiltrometer to measure air infiltration in a building.

This technique involves removing air from a part of the building using a blower door with a fan.
The expert then analyzes, using his infrared camera and his smoke bulb, where there are deficiencies that could cause air infiltration.

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Condensation problem in the attic

Condensation problem

As the Association of Builders of Quebec (ACQ) reminds us, almost all of the condensation found in roof construction voids (attic spaces and voids) comes from the water vapor that flows through the roof. ceiling and spreads through air leaks.

It is during the winter period that we see the greatest heat loss from the ceiling of the upper floor of a building. This promotes the formation of moisture and condensation in the attic.

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Facade inspection: unarmed masonry

Façade inspection

In the nineteenth century, brick emerged as a material used both as a structure and as a cladding for buildings. In the past, the massive masonry walls consisted of a row of bricks in every six (19) rows of bricks. This system of construction has given way to another where the framework (wood or steel) is independent of the facing consisting of a single row of bricks laid in panneress.

When inspecting façades under the 122 Act, the engineer must identify the facade system for older buildings to determine whether they are solid masonry walls with or without header. The type of system with headers may suggest that the outer walls are load bearing. This is not always the case, as some buildings have a concrete frame structure and not a structural system with load-bearing walls. This is called a BMR structure system (reinforced concrete with filling walls). The filler walls are composed of unarmed masonry (MNA) which sometimes do not have any header.

If one is in the presence of a concrete frame (BMR), then this armed framework is carrier and massive walls in masonry are non-bearing.

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Wind shearing of asphalt shingles

Roof shingles

Asphalt shingles are a very popular roofing material because of their affordability, strength, ease of installation and durability. Despite undeniable advantages, there are still disadvantages to this type of coating such as shearing shingles by the wind.

Two defects can be the cause of this problem, namely inadequate nailing and lack of adhesion of asphalt shingles. The wrong installation may be due to bent nails and too deep; an incorrect number of nails (lack); nails driven away from the nailing line. Finally, it may be a lack of glue between the flashings overhanging the roof and the shingles, and on the nail heads.

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Cracks in the foundations

Cracks in the foundation walls

There are many types of cracks in foundation walls, but gravity is not always the same. These may include minor shrinkage cracks that do not affect the integrity of the building. However, we recommend having them repaired to avoid water infiltration problems.

Another type, structural cracks, requires more attention. These cracks are caused by a structural movement of the building that is the result of either soil subsidence, frost heave, lateral soil thrust, inoperative or absent French drain, poor design of the footing (or foundation walls), poor load distribution or poor concrete implementation.

Soil subsidence is the most important factor responsible for structural cracks in foundation walls. In this article, you will find the telltale signs of a movement of the building attributable to a subsidence of the ground.

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Hidden vice: between myths and realities

Expertise in hidden vice

In recent years, there has been an explosion of lawsuits in hidden vice. In this type of expertise, the role of the civil engineer is not a substitute for judges, but it must still analyze whether or not it is a case of hidden vice. To do this, it collects clues and performs the appropriate tests in order to discover if the defect was apparent or hidden during the real estate transaction.

In the case where buyers have consulted a pre-purchase inspector, it sometimes happens that the latter does not take into account the symptoms that may indicate an apparent defect. Despite obvious symptoms, the inspector may not make any recommendation in his report for expert in-depth expertise.

As part of a technical-legal expertise, the engineer must make the distinction between a hidden defect and the normal wear and tear of the components.

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Alert to degraded facades!

degraded facade

In order to ensure the safety of the public, the Legislator of Quebec has passed Law 122 to make mandatory the inspection of the facades for all buildings of five (5) floors and more above ground and equipment intended for use public. To carry out his inspection, the expert scrutinizes the facades to detect apparent deficiencies and symptoms that may reveal deficiencies hidden behind the exterior cladding.

Exploratory holes are made by the professional to allow him to check the inner layers of the envelope. This inspection allows the engineer to determine the nature of the deficiencies, their severity so as to propose solutions and indicate the order of priority of the repairs to be performed.

In this article, you will find some examples of the deficiencies and symptoms that can be observed on the facades, such as efflorescence, the absence of caulking joints, corrosion on lintels and steel angles, missing or obstructed weeping, etc. .

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Crack in the slab on the ground

Crack in the slab on the ground

The discovery of cracks in the concrete slab of the basement does not necessarily announce a problem of scope, because it could be cracks withdrawal. Nevertheless, it is necessary to remain alert, because the cracks in the slab can be symptoms of much more important problems.
Indeed, they may be a clue that there is pyrite. If the cracks are star-shaped, then a test with a specialized laboratory is the only valid method to know if there is pyrite or not. The engineer may also consider the hypothesis of an uplift due to hydrostatic pressures of the soil, the sulphation of the concrete, the subsidence of the embankment supporting the slab on the ground, the absence or lack of control joints, an overloaded slab, the warping of the slabs or the lifting of the slab caused by the action of freezing and thawing.

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Membrane of waterproofing of the structural slab


At the beginning of the 80 years, we saw a boiling phenomenon in the construction of condominium buildings in Quebec. Despite a slowdown in this area, in recent years, it has still built a lot of condominium projects.

The acquisition of a unit in a condominium complex with an underground garage imposes obligations such as repairs to the waterproofing membrane of the structural slab. In the latter, we can find shrinkage cracks or other types of cracks. These can sometimes let the water penetrate through the slab.
In the event that the water containing the de-icing salt (transported by the cars in the parking lot) infiltrates through the slab, it would then attack the concrete and the reinforcement of the structural slab. It is therefore necessary to repair the cracks first and then apply the waterproofing membrane.

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The chantepleures in the brick wall


By ignorance and believing to do well, some owners decide to caulk the chantepleures practiced in the masonry walls. They do not know that the chantepleure is a hollow masonry joint (drain hole) that does not contain mortar, in order to encourage the flow of water that seeps behind the masonry.

In order to understand the role of chantepleures in a hollow wall, one must know the components of this wall. Thus, the latter is composed of a masonry cladding and a wooden structure. This wall has two membranes to protect against the penetration of rain, an external and internal protection.

Exterior protection includes masonry assembly (bricks or stones and mortar joints, flashing and grouting joints), while interior protection is provided by the liner membrane.

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What is a building certificate?

Certificate of building status

Most owners of a building or condominium understand the importance of the pre-acceptance inspection; but when is it from the state building inspection? Although these two types of inspection may be similar, there is still a major difference, namely that the condition of building concerns older buildings.

Ignoring the regular maintenance of building components often causes major problems that are costly. Since building components have a limited life expectancy, these elements must be replaced when they reach their end of life. Regular maintenance is essential to prevent deterioration of these components so that they can reach their expected service life. The role of the engineer is therefore to determine what maintenance work is required. It is a visual inspection that reflects the current state of building components (single-family, condominium, commercial, industrial and institutional).

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Drainage of French foundations and drains

foundation drainage

The French drain (or drainage of foundations) refers to the drainage pipe installed at the base of the footing of the foundation walls.
Water table lower than the foundations - The principle of the French drain is to evacuate the groundwater when the normal water table (usually stays below the soles) rises and exerts pressure under the slab on the ground and around the soles of the walls foundations. This water table rises and falls depending on the season and the amount of rainwater. In general, this type of tablecloth is lower than the sole, but it can also rise for a short period.
Water table higher than the foundations - The situation is different if the water table is shallow. In this case, the installation of a French drain is not enough to solve the problem of waterproof foundations. It will then require foundations and waterproof slabs.
The French drain acts as a safety valve to evacuate the hydrostatic pressure of the water beneath the building.

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