In this edition

Spring is coming..... is your sump pump working OK?  Have you started planning your maintenance/upgrades/repairs for the summer rush - don't wait as the good contractors get busy very fast.  Do you have an oil tank? You should read the In Your House section.

Main Topic Of The Newsletter

A sump pump is designed to remove unwanted water, such as surface or ground water and is normally installed in a pit in the basement or crawl space floor. If the pit is installed properly, there are openings in the sides and bottom of the sump pit and in combination with the stone under the concrete slab will remove water before it can leak into the house. In some homes, the perimeter drain (also called a French drain) is connected to the pit. Some homes just have a pit with no pump in cases where gravity can remove the water through the city’s storm drainage (or sewer) network. In areas that only have sewer pipes, you are normally not allowed to pump water into the network so you must discharge it onto your property using a pump.

Submersible or pedestal pumps are the two kinds mostly used in Quebec. A submersible sump pumps use a motor housed in a water proof enclosure and has a float that turns the pump on and off.  A pedestal sump pump use a motor atop a pipe that turns a shaft which operates the pump impeller located in a bottom pedestal which is under-water. The float that turns the pedestal pump on and off is normally a hollow plastic ball (like in a toilet) attached to a metal rod which moved up and down as the water level changes.

Both types of pumps can be connected to a battery backup which uses a rechargeable battery so that the pump will continue to operate during a power failure during a storm which is mostly when you need a sump pump.  Another good safety feature is a water/flood alarm that warns you when the water level is getting too high which could indicate a sump pump failure or that there is too much water for the pump to handle.

You should inspect/test your pump regularly as there is a high failure rate on sump pumps (many come with only a 1 or 2 year warranty).  During recent inspections, 2 new construction homes (2005 and 2007) have had sump pump that were no longer working. 

Things to check with your sump pump:
  • If you have an alarm, test it. If the alarm is connected to your house alarm, make sure to call your alarm company to inform them you are testing the water sensor since you don't want the fire department showing up at your door (to pump the water out of your basement).
  • If you have a battery backup, turn the circuit breaker off (or unplug the unit) and add water to the pit to activate the pump and see if the battery is still working properly.
  • Verify that the check valve (or sometimes called a backflow valve) is still working. Activate the pump and make sure water does not come back into the pit from the discharge pipe when the pump stops.
  • Verify the discharge line connections since in most installations, there is at least one connection that is not glued so that the discharge tube can be removed to replace the pump. If your pump used a flexible discharge tube (which is not recommended), verify that it is not damaged or that the connections are not loose.
  • Test the GFCI plug that the pump is connected to. Your sump pump should also be on a dedicated circuit that is identified on the panel label.
  • If you have a pedestal pump, make sure it is secured properly since if the pump tips over even a little, the float arm can jam and cause the pump to not work properly.
  • Put some water into the pit to test the float mechanisms.
  • Remove all dirt/silt and loose debris (you'd be surprised what we see in pits) from the pit.
  • Make sure the pit cover is not damaged, loose or a trip hazard.


Most of the time your sump pump is in a corner of your basement you rarely go into however your sump pump is a very important component of your house. If you have a sump pump that runs regularly, maybe the $125 pump sold at the local hardware store is not your best solution.  A Montreal company called Metropolitan Basements sell some very good sump pump systems at a reasonable price ($1000+) compared to the cost of refinishing your basement after a flood ($10,000+).  Basements are now used as living space so keeping water out of the basement is now very important. 

The good setup has a submersible pump, a proper pit with a solid cover (sometimes there are no holes in the lid), a solid discharge pipe and a check valve (green square).  In the poor setup, there is a pedestal pump, a half wood cover and a questionable discharge pipe - note the bathroom fan beside the pump since there was a terrible sewer gas smell around the sump pump.

Good Setup                                                                         Poor Setup

Homeowner's Maintenance

Have you made your Spring/Summer maintenance lists yet?  If you are planning any major renovations such as a new kitchen or bathroom or planning to upgrade your windows, you need to start calling contractors NOW.  If you are planning to change your roof, you should also start calling some roofers and be put on their list to come give you a quote as soon as possible.  If you would like a list of contractors/roofers to call, please send us an e-mail.

You should be planning to spend about 1% of your house's value on maintenance, repairs and upgrades every year (and no, changing the kitchen appliances or adding a spa/pool does not count).  This doesn't mean that you have to spend the 1% every year however you need to then be prepared to spend more in future years.  Planning ahead is important since some repairs/upgrades are expensive such as a new roof ($5,000 - $15,000), complete kitchen upgrade ($10,000 - no limit), new windows (min $1000 per window on average installed - note that a new bay/bow window can go as high as $5000) and a new driveway ($5,000 - no limit).  Then there are the little things like replacing a mail box, fixing a fence, replacing your grass after a grubs infestation, changing exterior lights, deck painting, etc....  Not sure what to do next, give us a call and book a Residential Home Check-up.

Inspection Profession

Vendor Declaration Forms

In Quebec, inspectors that are part of the AIBQ are now required to have a Vendor Declaration form completed by the seller during the inspection if the listing agent didn’t complete one or if the form is not available for the inspector to read before starting the inspection.

The Vendor Declaration form is an important document in the Real Estate sales transaction and should be used for most sales transactions. In some cases (newer construction and condos) the form is normally a waste of time however is almost ALL other cases the form should be used. Having the form completed at the inspection can be risky chance to take and puts more stress on already stressful inspection process. Will the buyer be happy finding out at the inspection that there was a flood in the basement, that there was a cockroach infestation last summer or the owner has none of the paperwork for major repairs?

In 2010, Dan did not renew his membership with the AIBQ and decided to concentrate on obtaining his National Certification instead (applied for the final step in February 2010) as the fees charged by the AIBQ were too high for what the association provides for services/resources to English inspectors. National Certification is going to be the new standard for Inspector certification so why was time and money with the provincial association.  MD Inspect Plus has it’s own Property Questionnaire that the Seller will be asked to fill out if an ACAIQ Vendor Declaration form is not available from the listing agent.  If the seller refuses to complete the form, it will be clearly indicated in the inspection report that the seller refused to complete a form.

No matter what association an inspector is part of, what forms they use or what type of report they produce, the key thing to make sure is that the inspector has valid Errors and Omissions Insurance.  MD Inspect Plus inspectors always carry proof of insurance with them.

In Your House - New oil line standards

Since the oil tank has to be 10 feet from the furnace/boiler/hot water heater, the oil supply line is an important part of the oil fired system(s).  In the old days, the oil line was sometimes buried under the concrete slab or at the bottom of the wall covered with concrete which are no longer allowed (your insurance company will probably require you to replace the line immediately).  Many insurance companies now require a "pro-tec oil line" even if the oil line has been replaced recently - a pro-tec oil line has an orange plastic coating over the copper pipe.  Installing a new pro-tec oil line as a few dollars a lineal foot. 

Remember that your oil tank has to be replaced every 20 years if it is inside (sooner if it's a lower quality tank or in a very damp area) and if the tank is outside, call your insurance company to see if they will cover you in the event of an oil leak since the manufacturer's warranty on the tank is only 1 year when installed outside.

What's this?

What do you see in this picture?  Try to identify what you see.  Go to the answer page to see if you are right.