Parade of Homes

Go with the flow

Marc LaBossiere
December 11


Parade of Homes

Repairing cracked vent pipe an easy fix

Question: I am wondering if you could explain an unusual pipe I have seen in my attic. My house is a bungalow, built in 1986. This was in the attic and I found a small area, three square inches, of frost on some blown in insulation. I swept away the insulation and found an ABS vent pipe with a very fine crack in it. I’m assuming the pipe leads to the exterior roof vent. I am not sure how long the crack existed.

What would cause the pipe to crack? Since it’s a vent pipe I would think there wouldn’t be enough water to accumulate to cause it to crack.

I should note that in the past the vent from the roof has frozen on me.

K. Wazney.

Answer: Fixing a damaged vent pipe in an attic of a home your age should not be too difficult and should be the focus of your endeavours. Trying to find the cause, when it may have dated back more than three decades, may be a waste of your efforts. Calling a plumber to enter your attic and replace the cracked ABS pipe, before it causes any serious issues, will nip it in the bud.

Finding a direct cause for a small amount of frost in an attic can sometimes be difficult, but you seem to have done just that. Typically, frost forming on the underside of the roof sheathing, or elsewhere, is caused by air leakage from the house. This may occur at any location where the air/vapour barrier is damaged, or other poorly sealed areas. This can frequently happen around the ABS plastic vent pipe for your plumbing drains, but is normally located where it breaches the attic floor. If the polyethylene sheathing is not properly secured and sealed to this pipe, air can rise up around it. If the gap is significant enough, it can allow this moist air to enter the attic, hit the wooden components, and condense. In very cold weather, this condensation will quickly freeze, leading to the visible frost.

Because the frost in your attic was seen on the loose fibreglass insulation, it easily could have had this same cause, but did not have enough heat energy to rise up to the underside of the roof. The fluffy insulation may have slowed down its rise, allowing the condensation to occur in the fibreglass, itself. You were wise to crawl inside and pull away this frosty material to look for the source. Unusually, it appears that the moist air actually leaked directly out of the pipe rather than around it. Even though it appears that the crack is only hairline in the black plastic, it may be enough for gas to escape. This may be why the frost is only seen in the insulation, due to the limited leakage.

Because this air leakage problem is emanating from your plumbing waste system, it is somewhat more urgent to fix than a standard attic air leak. This is not only because the air leaking from your pipes will have a very high moisture content, but also contain noxious gasses from the drains. These gasses should be expelled to the exterior of the home as quickly as possible, to prevent any problems. It is unlikely that these could re-enter the living space and make any of the occupants’ sick, but it still should be removed from the attic ASAP. The simplest way to do this would be to cut out and replace the damaged section of plastic pipe.

The possible cause of this damaged pipe may never be determined, but it is likely not something to be at all concerned about. Because of the thickness and durability of ABS pipe, it is rarely damaged unless subjected to extreme pressure, or other physical abuse. There should be nothing inside the attic that would exert that kind of pressure, because the boot sealing the top of the pipe exiting the roof is flexible. That should allow the vent to move up and down, which will prevent pressure-related damage. Unless later workers inside the attic, such as insulators or alarm installation technicians, damaged it during retro-fit work, it may not have a recent cause.

My guess is that the pipe was originally flawed from the manufacturer, or damaged during the original construction of the home. It is not unusual for a minor defect in a building material to cause a more serious issue years after installation. If a tradesperson working on the home accidentally cut the surface of the pipe before it was used, it may have gone undetected by the plumber putting it in. That cut may have eventually opened, and allowed the gasses inside to escape. Another possibility is that some chemical compound was spilled on the pipe, again during the construction process, that weakened that small section of plastic. That could have included some type of solvent, adhesive, cleaner, or other chemical used by any of the trades in the building process.

Regardless of the cause, the situation now calls for action to be taken to prevent sewer gas and moisture leakage into the attic or further deterioration to the pipe. Cutting ABS pipe is quite straightforward and is often done with a hacksaw or fine-toothed reciprocating saw blade. Cutting out the damaged section should be quite easy, as long as it is readily accessible. Once removed, a new piece of ABS pipe can be put in its place with a pair of coupler fittings and proper adhesive.

Trying to determine what caused the hairline crack in your attic vent pipe is not likely worth the time involved. Hiring a Red Seal plumber to go in, remove and replace the damaged section, and eliminate the vapour leakage causing the frost is the proper use of your resources.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at

Ari Marantz
November 20

Parade of Homes

Taking stock

Colleen Zacharias
November 20

Parade of Homes

Freshen trash can with essential oil

Question: I have a lidded garbage can next to my bed, full of my daughter’s diapers. I can’t seem to get rid of the odour. I have tried replacing the bag, but it’s still there. Any suggestions on how to remove it? Julio

Answer: Unfortunately, the odour will linger if diapers are kept inside, but you can reduce the smell. Clean the garbage can with either bleach and water or vinegar and water; if possible, use a bathtub faucet to rinse (pressure washer or hose is best for large receptacles). Dry well. Pour either: Fresh coffee grounds, kitty litter or baking soda and essential oils onto the bottom of the can (making sure that your daughter does not have access to the contents); discard contents after one week. Some people lay a cardboard car freshener on the floor of the can; this is only effective if the can is clean. Dollar stores also sell scented garbage-can liners.

Make your own diaper pail/trash, smelly cupcakes. Fill a muffin pan with six cupcake liners. Combine two-cups baking soda, a few drops of your favourite essential oil and half cup water to make a thick paste. Scoop the baking soda paste into the cupcake liners; fill each liner three-quarters full. Leave to dry 12 hours, remove paper muffin liner. Place one smelly cupcake into the garbage can or diaper pail. If you are putting smelly cupcakes into a cloth diaper bag, you can leave them in the bag and add them to your laundry.

Question: How can I get black scuff marks off painted ceramic without taking the paint off? Also, I have a large area of melted red wax crayon in the back seat of my car. It is not possible to scrape any of it off as it has soaked into the fabric. Tamara

Answer: To remove scuff marks on ceramic pieces, rub with an art eraser and wipe with a damp cloth. To remove wax on upholstery, heat the wax using a hair dryer and scrape as much of the wax as possible. Spray WD-40 onto the area, leave for 10 minutes and wipe. Scrub the area with Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo and water. Rinse with water and let air dry (test all products on an inconspicuous area first).

Question: My daughter who owns a dog is considering putting down carpeting. We did this in the past and found that the vacuum cleaners we tried failed to remove the hair. Can you suggest which type of carpet surface would limit this problem? Olva

Answer: Consider purchasing a commercial grade, synthetic carpet such as polyester, or nylon. While natural fibres are environmentally friendly, synthetic fibres are more practical due to their durability and stain resistance, and they are therefore longer lasting. Choose a tightly woven fabric with a short pile. Tight looped carpets such as berber are popular but can easily snag on the dog’s nails. Some people opt for pet resistant carpets that are chemically treated, others feel that these are an unhealthy choice. My personal choice would be to purchase replaceable commercial carpet tiles. They are easier to install, can last a long time and are simple to replace. Buy a few extra, so that you can replace them as needed.

Note: Every user assumes all risks of injury or damage resulting from the implementation of any suggestions in this column. Test all products on an inconspicuous area first.

Have a great suggestion or tip? Please send an email. Reena Nerbas is a popular motivational presenter for large and small groups; check out her website:

Reena Nerbas
November 20

Parade of Homes

Home inspectors can also assist in new builds

Question: My daughter is building a new house. The specifications for the new house listed by the builder for things like insulation, gravel thickness beneath the concrete, and garage size don’t mean much to my daughter.

Would a home inspector be able to review these specifications and tell her what, if any, changes ought to be made? This is so she is not disappointed with the house, once built.

Also, I notice that the house will have a piled foundation, but the specifications don’t say how deep the piles will go. Should they go down to bedrock? Thanks, Len Nealer.

Answer: Getting recommendations from a home inspector who reviews details for a new home, prior to construction, may be very helpful for inexperienced homeowners. Ensuring the Registered Home Inspector (RHI) has a construction background is essential in receiving the best advice possible.

While it is not the first thing that comes to mind when contracting with a homebuilder for construction of a new home, extra review of the house details is a great idea. Perhaps that is because most buyers have faith in their builder to deliver a high-quality product. Regardless, it is always advantageous to consult an independent third party, who is well-versed in house construction techniques, to add their input to the process. This could include an architect, structural engineer, or architectural technologist, but these professionals may not provide this service regularly for residential clients. Also, they will typically charge a fee commensurate with their professional stature, which may be fairly pricey. Another option would be to consult an RHI, who also has a background in building trades or construction. They may be able to provide input of equal value, for a lower overall fee. Also, most home inspectors are used to providing direct consultation to homebuyers within a short timeframe, so may be more available.

This may surprise many of you regular readers, but a large number of home inspectors don’t have much direct construction experience. This may even be the majority, in certain locations across the country. It may be a valid assumption that anyone who is scrutinizing a resale home prior to purchase has hands-on experience building or renovating homes, but unfortunately that is not always the case. Many good inspectors have taken excellent educational courses about homes and inspecting, which don’t require a prerequisite of having worked in a building trade. Most home inspectors approach the profession as their second or third occupation, or even higher. Many have a business background, hoping to cash in on a previously growing field.

For most typical pre-purchase home inspections, a history in building construction is not critical. There are various Standards of Practice which can be followed when completing the inspections. Once properly trained to follow these Standards, and identify visible deficiencies, many individuals can do a passable job for their clients. Because a home inspection is not technically exhaustive, due to the limited time and inability to do invasive testing, a person previously inexperienced in construction can become a competent and successful inspector. But for specialized consulting, such as advice for your daughter’s new home, they may not be properly qualified. For that reason, any home inspector hired should be quizzed on their past experience with construction, plan review, and other aspects of house construction.

Anyone who has worked as a carpenter, plumber, electrician, or other tradesperson on multiple construction sites will have a better chance at providing meaningful advice to a new home buyer, who may be ignorant in many aspects of that project. It is my experience that the best and most successful home inspectors do come from that type of background, especially those involved in the entire building process. Any individual that has spent several years, or decades, building or renovating homes will have a strong leg up on those who don’t have that direct experience. Although, I have met many intelligent and well-educated inspectors who don’t. Those who are successful in their business often stick to standard home inspections, and associated diagnostic testing, and rarely deviate to other consulting areas.

Helping your daughter decide to what depth the concrete piers should be poured, the types of siding and roofing to pick, suggestions on insulation materials, and many other variables that make up a typical build should be within the scope of any consultant’s work. Most of this should be based on experience gained in actual construction, and learned through years of inspecting hundreds of homes. Seeing common issues that occur years or decades after completion is a regular part of defect recognition in any inspection. Avoiding these pitfalls may be one of the most important aspects of the proposed advice. Often these are unknown, even to the most experienced homebuilder, as they are long gone once the issues arise. Preventing premature deterioration, especially related to moisture damage inside and outside the home, should be a key focus of any early review of the house specifications.

Advising your daughter to seek the help of an experienced RHI, who has a direct background in construction, is a wise decision. She should gain very valuable insight, as long as the inspector has the experience to back-up their recommendations.

Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home Inspection Ltd. and a Registered Home Inspector (RHI)( Questions can be emailed to the address below. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his website at

Ari Marantz
November 9

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