basement, flood, backup sump pump

The Backup Plan Your Basement Needs!

Amidst the news updates of COVID-19 across Ontario, there has been an increasing number of reports of flooding along the shores of Lake Huron and Lake Ontario. Homeowners have watched as rising water levels and rainstorms have damaged their properties both inside and out. We all know that floods can happen at any time of the year. The spring months can be particularly challenging, however, as rainstorms increase, adding to the already high water table caused by our typical Canadian winters. Since floods are the most expensive natural hazard in Ontario as they can significantly damage your home, it’s crucial that when the rains come and the power goes out, your home stays protected. 

What Causes Basements to Flood?

Basement flooding is one of the most common types of floods that can take place in your home. As floods are generally caused by melting snow, ice jams, high water levels and rainstorms, all of this extra water has to go somewhere. The GTA is particularly prone to flooding as there is less natural space for the water to go. As water typically collects at the lowest point, the basement is where it tends to go. 

You may believe that your home has been built to withstand flooding, but there are many ways that water can find it’s way inside. Groundwater can enter into the basement through cracks in the home’s foundation, or through walls, windows and doors that are at ground level. Extensive landscaping, run-off from higher points on your property, or an improper foundation drain or weeping tile system can also contribute to basement flooding. Even underground wastewater or stormwater pipes that have become clogged or overwhelmed can cause this excess water to find its new home in your basement. 

If you live in an older area and your home was built before the mid-1970s, your home may be at a higher risk of flooding as the original connections to weeping tiles, foundation drains, and downspouts may be connected directly to the wastewater system. This can overwhelm the system, causing flooding to occur. In 1975 when the first Ontario Building Code was introduced, stormwater systems were required in newer builds to give water another place to go. If you are living in an older home, ensure your wastewater and stormwater systems are operating as they should be. 

How Can You Protect Your Home?

While there are many ways that you can redirect water away from your home, a sump pump is an excellent way to remove excess water that has collected in the sump pump basin or pit. What happens, however, if your primary pump stops working or if you lose power to your home? 

A battery-operated backup sump pump acts as a secondary sump pump for your home. If the primary pump were to fail, a backup pump activates to remove excess water and prevent it from pooling. A battery-operated sump pump only engages when the primary pump has stopped working, whether its due to a lack of electricity or issues with the pump itself. 

At AtlasCare, we rely on pumps developed by Liberty Pumps to do the job due to their quality and leadership in the industry. Each pump we carry, whether it be the Liberty 441, or the Liberty 442 models which have the option for WiFi integration and real-time audible alerts, draw power from Interstate batteries. These batteries can last up to three days depending on how long the backup pump is working. 

The installation of a sump pump with a backup sump pump system is considered as well. Our team removes the old pump and installs the new pumps with the secondary pump placed higher than the primary one. We also install a new check valve to ensure that the entire system remains operational, rather than relying on existing elements of the system itself. We also inspect the discharge pipe and sump pump pit and ensure that all connections to your home’s piping system are secure. Finally, we ensure no issues are lurking within the pipes and that the entire system is running efficiently and quietly. 

As severe storms increase in frequency, and flooding continues to be a year-round concern, know that your home is always protected. If you are unsure if your home has a properly working stormwater and wastewater system and are looking to install a new sump pump with a battery-operated backup pump, let us help. We will safely inspect and advise you on what you need to keep your home protected all year round. Trust the experts, so that you can continue to have peace of mind in your home. 

Helpful Tip: If you are in an area that is prone to flooding, gain access to Ontario’s Flood Forecast

Why You Should Never Let Your Water Softener Run Out of Salt

Don’t you hate it when glassware comes out of the dishwasher covered with streaky stains?

Or your laundry comes out of the washing machine all stiff and scratchy?

You might have tried switching detergents, which can help alleviate the problem but not eliminate it. Some who have struggled with these frustrations will go as far as replacing the appliance entirely…which, unfortunately, won’t make much of a difference.

The truth is, it’s not your detergent or machine that’s responsible for stiff laundry and streaky glassware ‒ it’s your tap water.

Though it might appear crystal-clear, your tap water contains numerous minerals, including calcium and magnesium. 

When the concentration of these minerals is high, it can have a major impact on your home’s plumbing and appliances ‒ including the laundry and dishwasher troubles we just discussed.

As licensed and certified plumbers, we feel that anyone who is having problems with hard water should consider installing a water softener. Water softeners reduce the amount of hard minerals in your water without adding chlorine or other harsh chemicals. Our plumbing technicians install and service water softeners throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

Read on to learn more about how a water softener can help make it easier to clean your clothing, linens, dishes, and even your hair ‒ and the important effect on your plumbing pipes.

How a Water Softener Works

Most water softener systems have two main parts:

  1. The resin tank or mineral tank, which contains small, plastic beads called water softening resin.
  2. The brine tank, which contains a rock salt and water used to “clean out” the resin tank every few days. 

Most water softeners have these tanks as two separate units, but some newer, high-efficiency water softener models house both tanks in a single unit.

People often assume that salt is used to ‘neutralize’ or dissolve hard minerals in the water, which isn’t quite true. The actual process is quite fascinating. 

Water softeners use a process called ion exchange

  1. Water enters the resin tank, where it flows over small, plastic beads that are negatively charged with a sodium ion. 
  2. This charge allows the beads to ‘grab’ magnesium and calcium mineral ions, which are attracted to the sodium because they have a positive charge. When a bead grabs hold of a hard mineral, it lets go of its sodium ion. 
  3. The hard minerals stay behind in the resin tank while the softened water flows out to wherever it’s needed: the faucet, showerhead, dishwasher or washing machine!

In other words, a water softener pulls unwanted hard minerals out of the water by trading them for sodium. 

You’ll notice the difference right away. Softened water doesn’t usually taste different than hard water, but it’s far better at dissolving dirt and grime, making it much easier to do the dishes. It leaves laundry cleaner, brighter and softer. You might even find that your skin and hair benefits, since hard water is known to worsen dry skin and hair!

Why You Need to Top Up Your Water Softener Salt

Eventually, the resin beads inside the water softener become saturated with hard minerals and need to be ‘regenerated.’  

This is where the second tank comes in. 

Water from the brine tank flows into the resin tank to trigger a reverse ion exchange ‒ the beads give up their mineral ions and grab a fresh sodium ion. The mineralized water is then drained out of the tank.

Modern water softeners run this ‘regeneration cycle’ automatically every few days… until the brine tank runs out of salt. 

If you forget to top off your water softener, the water softening resin will stay saturated. This brings the ion exchange to a screeching halt and allows hard water minerals into your pipes, fixtures and appliances.

What Hard Water Can Do To Your Plumbing System

We mentioned a few off the problems with hard water up top: streaky glassware, stiff laundry, and a general sense that things just aren’t getting as clean as they should be.

Those are frustrating issues, of course…but they’re really only the beginning when it comes to hard water problems.

The real concern lies in how hard water can affect your plumbing system.

You’ve seen firsthand how minerals create scale build-up on your faucets, tub and showerhead. You know how tough it is to scrub off those deposits once they’ve accumulated.

Without a water softener, the same thing happens on the inside of your plumbing pipes.

Scale build-up is invisible from the outside, but its effects are impossible to ignore. The more minerals build up, the less room there is for water to flow. Your water pressure drops, and your water-using appliances start burning more energy just to do their job. 

As your hydro bills climb and your water pressure plummets, an even worse problem is building behind your walls: the health of your plumbing system. Hard water is one of the biggest culprits for premature failure in water pipes, which can cause thousands of dollars in water damage in no time at all.

How to Tell If You Need a Water Softener

Certain parts of the Greater Toronto Area (particularly Halton Region) are known for having hard water. 

To help put it in perspective, let’s take a quick look at how we define water hardness.

Hard water is caused by higher concentrations of calcium, magnesium and other minerals with a positive charge. The concentration of hardness minerals in water is usually described in grains per gallon (gpg) or milligrams per litre (mg/L). 

The Water Quality Association and NSF International define soft water and hard water as:

  • Soft water: less than 1 gpg or 17.1 mg/L
  • Slightly hard water: 1.0 to 3.5 gpg or 17.1 to 60 mg/L
  • Moderately hard water: 3.5 to 7.0 gpg or 60 to 120 mg/L
  • Hard water: 7.0 to 10.5 gpg or 120 to 180 mg/L
  • Very hard water: greater than 10.5 gpg or 180 mg/L

With that in mind, here is the average water hardness in various parts of Halton Region:

  • Burlington: 8.6 gpg or 123 mg/L (Hard water)
  • Oakville: 8.7 gpg or 124 mg/L (Hard water)
  • Georgetown: 23.6 gpg or 335 mg/L (Very hard water)
  • Acton: 21.9 gpg or 312 mg/L (Very hard water)
  • Milton (areas serviced by well water): 20.8 gpg or 296 mg/L (Very hard water)
  • Milton (areas serviced by lake water) 8.8 gpg or 125 mg/L (Hard water)

Based on WQA and NSF standards, the entire Region of Halton has more-than-moderately hard water, and some parts of the region have very hard water. 

As we covered in a previous article, Oakville, Burlington and parts of Milton get their tap water from Lake Ontario. This is part of the reason why our water isn’t as hard here in Oakville as it is in Georgetown…which is lucky for us, and not great for our neighbours down the road.

Fortunately, there’s a hard water solution that works for all of us: water softeners! 

Water softeners are quick to install, dependable, and incredibly affordable to run. The Novosoft water softeners we install here at AtlasCare run on less than $2 of electricity per year!

Our Novosoft water softeners come with a 7-year system warranty and lifetime pressure tank warranty, with financing options to help you get your system up and running fast. 

For those of you who aren’t in need of a long-term solution, we also rent out water softeners.

To learn more about installing a water softener, you can always call us at (905) 829-1296 or reach out to us online!


Is Your Tap Water Safe to Drink? What to Know in the GTA

Clean water is one of the easiest things to take for granted. Without it, there’d be no flushing the toilet, no showering or bathing, no clean dishes or clothes…not to mention no water to drink!

You’re right to ask questions about the quality of your drinking water. We’re fortunate to have access to clean, safe water sources here in the Greater Toronto Area, but there was a Do Not Drink Advisory in Halton Region as recently as 2017. What’s more, a number of older homes in the GTA still use lead pipes, and new changes to the law allow municipalities to bypass certain drinking water regulations.

Here’s what you need to know about your drinking water here in the GTA:

  1. Where your drinking water comes from;
  2. How drinking water can become contaminated; and
  3. How to choose a water filtration system.

What Is the Source of Toronto’s Drinking Water?

Here in the Greater Toronto Area (including most of the Peel and Halton Regions) our tap water comes from Lake Ontario. It is collected through underwater intake pipes located at least 1km away from the shore.

Once it’s removed from the lake, the water goes through a multistage treatment process designed to remove debris, impurities, algae, bacteria and viruses. This process, which takes place at one of many water treatment facilities throughout the GTA, includes filtering the water to remove large debris and and disinfecting it with either chlorine or ozone.

Our water is also treated with the following additives:

  • Chlorine to destroy bacteria, algae and viruses.
  • Fluoride to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Ammonia to ensure that chlorine levels remain consistent as water travels through the distribution system.
  • Phosphoric acid to help create a barrier between residential lead pipes and drinking water.

In Canada, the responsibility to make sure our drinking water is safe is shared between the municipal, provincial and federal governments. However, most of the day-to-day work for this important task is handled at a local level.

Whenever there are concerns about water safety, the municipal government is typically the first to let you know. When Milton had a Do Not Drink Advisory in 2017, for example, it was Halton Region’s Associate Medical Officer of Health who issued the warning and spread the word.

How Can Drinking Water Become Contaminated?

Drinking water can become contaminated in various ways at different parts of the water system:

  1. Source water can become contaminated through human activities, like agricultural or industrial runoff. For example, agricultural pollution was what introduced E.Coli into the water supply in Walkerton in 2002.
  2. Water treatment system can be the origin of contamination or, if water is not processed properly, allow contamination that occurred in the source water. An inquiry into the Walkerton crisis found the town’s water supply managers ultimately responsible for failing to prevent the spread of E.Coli.
  3. Water distribution system, which carries water to homes and other buildings, can also become contaminated. Municipal water main breaks, for example, can introduce contaminants into the supply.
  4. Your home’s plumbing system is the final leg of the drinking water distribution system and it, too, can be a point of contamination. A leaking water line can allow potentially harmful contaminants into your drinking water, and corroded lead pipes can cause lead poisoning.

In Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area, our tap water is continuously tested, monitored and analyzed to flag possible contamination and deal with it quickly. This approach goes a long way to ensure that your family’s water is safe to drink.

However, the city can only go so far when it comes to clean drinking water. Once water enters your plumbing system, it can still become contaminated on the way to your tap – especially if there’s a problem with your water line.

There are also a number of common water problems that aren’t dangerous, but still raise concerns among residents, such as:

  1. Cloudy water
    Can occur after construction has occurred in and around a water main. Construction work can cause rust and sediment to break away from inside the pipe and find its way into your glass.
  2. Chlorine
    Chlorine is added to the drinking water to eliminate bacteria, algae and viruses, but many people are sensitive to the taste and smell.
  3. Fluoride
    Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that is added to water to help prevent tooth decay in children. However, not everyone wants to drink fluoridated water.
  4. Earthy taste or smell
    Our drinking water comes from Lake Ontario. From late summer and early fall, algae growth in the lake can give drinking water an earthy or musty smell.

These are among the most common reasons why many people install water filtration systems in their homes.

How to Choose a Water Filtration System

There are several ways to filter water before it comes out of your tap.

No single water filtration method can filter out all possible contaminants, but there are systems that incorporate two or more methods at once to achieve better results. If you’re only worried about filtering one specific contaminant, you might find that one method is all you need.

The three most popular water filtration systems installed in the Greater Toronto Area are carbon filters, reverse osmosis systems and distillation systems. There are a few other systems available, but these are generally used for specific situations rather than as a whole-house purification solution.

  1. Carbon Water Filtration

Removes: VOCs, radon, pesticides, lead, mercury, chlorine

Carbon water filters can be installed on a tap, under a sink, or on the main water line for whole-house water filtration. They’re actually part of a three-stage filtration process that removes sediment and chlorine in addition to potentially hazardous substances like VOCs, pesticides, lead and mercury.

  1. Reverse Osmosis

Removes: Microorganisms, fibres, metals, minerals, asbestos, nitrates

Reverse osmosis filters water through a fine membrane at high pressure. A reverse osmosis system can be installed on a tap or under the sink. Although it takes longer than carbon filtration, it removes almost every type of contaminant at once. However, it must be noted that reverse osmosis also removes minerals – including ones that are beneficial.

  1. Distillation

Removes: Microorganisms, fibres, metals, minerals, asbestos, nitrates

Distillation is a whole-home water filtration system that vaporizes water to separate it from any contaminants. The purified water passes through a condensation filter and leaves the impurities behind. As with reverse osmosis, distillation will remove beneficial particles as well as harmful ones, so people often choose to have water remineralized after it’s distilled.

To learn more about water filtration system or inquire about installing one in your GTA home, call us at 647-952-2012 or reach out to us online.

How to Stop Your Toilet From Clogging Once and For All

We all know the sinking feeling that comes with a clogged toilet. First, there’s the panic of overflow…then, the frustration of loosening the clog before someone notices.

While we know it’s not the prettiest topic to discuss, it’s important for homeowners to understand that clogged toilets can be much more than an inconvenience.

Here, we’ll run through why toilets clog, how a clogged toilet can damage your home, and how to avoid a clogged toilet and an unnecessary visit from the plumber.

Why Do Toilets Clog in the First Place?

A toilet clog is a backup of water in the toilet or in the drain pipes connected to the toilet. These clogs may be partial, blocking only part of the water’s passage, or they may totally occlude the pipe so that no water can pass.

Some clogs develop gradually, while others may occur all at once, like when you flush too much toilet paper in one go.

There are a number of reasons why toilets may clog, but first among them is that something was flushed down the toilet which the toilet and its drains were not designed to process.

Why Clogged Toilets Can Be a Big Deal

Unfortunately, a clogged toilet is more than just an inconvenience and a call for some hard work with a plunger! It can wreak havoc on your plumbing affect the rest of your home, too.

These “side effects” of a clogged toilet include:

  • Drain damage which can lead to foul odours throughout the home. In some cases, clogs that are large enough to prevent water from reaching certain areas of a pipe may result in the pipe drying out. When a clog prevents the flow of water, the mechanism of removing waste is eliminated, and the stinky, stagnant water behind a nasty clog can lead to unpleasant smells throughout your home.
  • Health hazards to the home’s occupants. Perhaps most serious of all is the health risk associated with airborne irritants which may seep into the home as a result of a clogged toilet.
  • Leaks and flooding. When there’s nowhere for water to go, you might say it gets desperate. Clogged pipes may eventually lead to leaks as the water searches for a way to escape the pipe. These leaks can be devastating as they damage walls, floors, and ceilings or, worse yet, result in back-up and flooding.

What’s Safe to Flush

Now that you know the devastating effects of stubborn toilet clogs, you’re likely wondering how you can prevent your home and its occupants from experiencing this fate.

Luckily, all you need to know is a single rule of thumb: toilets are designed to process three things and three things only. You might call them the “three P’s.” Any guesses?

That’s right—pee, poo, and paper. And when I say paper, of course, I meant toilet paper. Unlike other bathroom paper products, toilet paper is designed to dissolve quickly in water, making it much less hazardous to flush than other materials.

These substances are all perfectly safe to flush (in moderation, of course), and modern, properly functioning toilets and pipes should have no problems processing them.

What You Should Never Flush

Just as there are rules establishing what you can flush, there are rules dictating what you shouldn’t!

Again, it’s pretty simple. Is whatever you want to flush one of the three P’s? If not, don’t flush it!

Unfortunately, flushing is viewed by some people as a convenient way to get rid of waste, and many homeowners flush items that should never, under any circumstances, find their way into the toilet. For example, never flush:

  • Hair
  • Dental floss
  • Hygiene products like liners and tampons
  • Wet wipes (even the ones labelled as “flushable”)
  • Food
  • Medication
  • Band-aids
  • Cotton balls
  • Cat litter

Do any of these things start with “P”? No!

So, the next time you’re tempted to flush that floss because your bathroom trash is full, think again!

But if you’re already stuck with a clogged toilet…don’t panic! You don’t have to deal with it alone. Our licensed, certified plumbers can be at your home in no time. Call us at 647-952-2012 or get in touch online to book your same-day or next-day appointment.


How a Simple Plumbing Check Could Put More Money In Your Pocket

When was the last time you called a plumber?

If you’re anything like most people, it was probably when you needed some plumbing work done in your home. The majority of our plumbing calls come from customers who need a specific repair or upgrade (ideally as soon as possible.)

But isn’t that the only reason to call? Why contact a plumber when you don’t really need to?

Well, there are several reasons. For one, we always enjoy catching up with our neighbours! But there’s also a different type of service call we wish we received a lot more often:

Plumbing system checks.

From time to time, people call and ask for us to inspect their plumbing system ‒ even though there’s nothing obviously wrong with it.

What is a Plumbing System Check?

You might know them as plumbing inspections, tune-ups or diagnostics. We usually call them plumbing system checks. Whatever the name, the purpose of this service is the same: to find out the status of your plumbing system and stay ahead of any necessary repairs.

During a plumbing check, a licensed and certified plumber inspects various parts of your plumbing system, including toilets, sinks, showers, tubs, water pipes and drain pipes. They’ll check that fixtures have good water pressure and are draining properly. The plumber will also ask you questions about how your plumbing system has been functioning.

You’ll have a chance to talk about any specific problems or concerns that have come up since the last time your plumber was there.

Essentially, a plumbing system check is like an annual physical for your pipes and fixtures! It’s a chance to check up on potential problems, get a “big picture” of your plumbing system, and make plans for upgrades or repairs if necessary.

How Getting a Plumbing Check Could Save You Money

You might wonder: why go to all the trouble of having your plumbing system checked when you’re not even sure there’s a problem?

The people who invest in preventative checks don’t do it because they like spending money on their plumbing system. In fact, it’s the opposite.

Here are a few of the ways that a routine plumbing inspection could put more money in your pocket!

1. Find and Fix Leaky Pipes

You would be shocked to learn just how common it is to find water leaks in a home’s plumbing.

Some leaks, like dripping faucets, are obvious. But many go undetected for years because they’re hidden behind walls…even as they waste thousands of dollars in water each year!

How’s that possible? According to the City of Toronto:

  • 1/16’’ diameter hole (slightly larger than the tip of a ballpoint pen) costs $14.12 per day.
  • 1/8″ diameter hole costs $55.37 per day.
  • 3/16″ diameter hole costs $127.07 per day.

That’s an astonishing cost to just let slip by for so long!

Having your plumbing checked annually can help you catch on to those types of leaks far sooner.

2. Avoid Costly Water Damage

Sure, leaky pipes can cost a few hundred dollars to repair. But if that leak grows and the pipe eventually bursts…you could expect to be on the hook for thousands more just to clean up the mess.

It doesn’t take much time for a burst pipe to cause four-figure damage to your home. Water damage can also spur the growth of mould, which can be an even bigger headache to deal with in the aftermath.

It definitely pays to have those leaky pipes diagnosed and repaired as soon as possible.

3. Make Your Pipes Last Longer

Plumbing pipes aren’t made to last forever, especially ones made from outdated materials like polybutylene. But even the best-quality pipes installed by the most skilled master plumber will eventually need to be replaced!

Having them inspected will help you keep your pipes healthy and know when it’s time to have your system repiped.

4. Avoid a Plumbing Emergency

Speaking of repiping…the job is a whole lot smoother when it’s a planned project! Having to conduct emergency repairs on the spot comes with added costs and a much bigger mess.

Other plumbing emergencies, like sewer line collapse and sewage back-up, can also carry a very high price.

You can save yourself from thousands of dollars in damage by detecting potential problems like these before they reach a tipping point. That’s exactly what plumbing system checks are for!

5. Plan for Future Repairs and Renovations

A plumbing check gives you a detailed overview of your pipes, faucets, and other fixtures every year.

With this information, you can easily plan ahead for what needs to be replaced and when ‒ instead of fixing and replacing things as they break.

You can wait until the time is right. No more surprise plumbing expenses!

7 Signs It’s Time for a Plumbing Check

It pays to schedule an annual plumbing check, even when there’s nothing clearly wrong with your plumbing system. But if you’re seeing any of the following signs, you’ll want to book your appointment sooner than later to avoid bigger problems.

  1. Unusually high water bills
    Often a sign of a small leak somewhere in the system.
  2. Foul-smelling drain
    Indicates a partial clog, mould, or bacteria in your drain pipe.
  3. Unexplained sewage smell (occasionally or often)
    Could be a problem with your traps or drain ventilation that’s causing sewer gas to come into your home.
  4. Slow-draining tub, sink or toilet
    One of the most common signs of a clogged drain. Multiple slow-draining fixtures could indicate a more serious sewer line problem.
  5. Low water pressure
    Leaking faucets, mineral build-up, or a damaged shut-off valve are all possible causes.
  6. Discoloured or off-smelling water
    May be caused by rust, sulphur or other metals inside your pipes, or a problem with your water heater.
  7. Noisy/banging pipes
    Some of your pipes may not be properly secured.

Ready to book your annual plumbing check? AtlasCare will send a licensed, certified plumber to inspect your home in the Greater Toronto Area today. Call us or contact us online to schedule a same-day or next-day appointment!

Why a Frost-Free Hose Bib Is a Must-Have for Canadian Homes

As the weather starts to change and the temperature drops, you’ve probably already started preparing for the long winter season.

You know there’s a lot to do around the home this season, but one area you might overlook is your hose bib ‒ or, as many people call it, your outdoor faucet.

During the summer, you might use your hose bib to water the garden, wash your car, or even hook up the sprinkler for your kids. When the warm season comes to a close, you pack away the hose, shut off the valve and move onto something else.

But what about the water that’s still sitting in the pipe?

Even if you purge the line, you could still end up with costly water damage if you don’t have a frost-free hose bib.

Let’s take a look at how a frost-free hose bib can help you avoid a burst pipe this winter! Read on to learn:

  1. What a hose bib is, and what it does
  2. How a hose bib is connected to the rest of your plumbing system
  3. Purpose of a ‘frost-free’ hose bib
  4. What can happen if your hose bib freezes
  5. How to prevent your hose bib from freezing this winter

What Is a Regular Hose Bib, and What Is It For?

The hose bib is the small faucet on the exterior of your house. It’s essentially an outdoor tap that allows you to run water from the inside of your house to the outside. You use this tap to attach your garden hose for many different jobs.

A hose bib is also called a:

  • Exterior faucet
  • Spigot
  • Sill cock
  • Hose faucet
  • Outdoor tap
  • Hose valve
  • …and many other things!

A regular hose bib typically features a ½, or ¾ inch threaded pipe that lets you screw on a garden hose, and a handle on the top to open the valve on and off.

Inside your home, there is usually a shut-off valve that lets you stop the flow of water leading from the valve to the end of the pipe.

How Does a Hose-Bib Work with the Rest of Your Plumbing System?

Your hose bib is connected to the entire plumbing system in your home, which is what allows you to get water to the exterior of the house. The pipes lead from the end of the hose bib to the main supply in your home.

As mentioned, many homes, especially in the north, have a separate valve inside the house to help prevent the pipes from freezing. But one issue many homeowners run into is that the valve is still too close to the exterior of the home.

When the valve isn’t far enough away from the hose bib, the water is still sitting dangerously close to the freezing zone.

A frost-free hose bib prevents that issue from occurring.

What Is a Frost-Free Hose Bib?

From the outside of your home, a frost-free hose bib looks the same as a traditional one. The difference between the two happens inside the house.

The pipe on a frost-free hose bib is longer than a regular one, and the shut-off valve is further inside the house where the temperature is warmer.

We always recommend having a licensed, certified plumber install your frost-free hose bib, since they can ensure that it sits at the proper angle to keep water from draining to your home’s foundation.

What Happens If Your Hose Bib Freezes?

If your hose bib freezes, it could lead to cracked pipes and water damage. When the pipes break, the damage could spread beyond the valve, which would cause the main flow of water to spray inside your home. Since these pipes often lie near essential components of the house, such as breakers, electrical wiring, and appliances, we consider this a plumbing emergency.

How to Prevent Your Hose Bib from Freezing in the Winter

The best way to prevent your hose bib from freezing this winter is to install a frost-free hose bib.

We understand how important your home is to you and how much time you spend taking care of it, so the last thing you should have to worry about this winter is water damage!

The team at AtlasCare is happy to help you protect your home this winter. Call us or contact us online to learn more about having a frost-free hose bib installed in your Greater Toronto Area home.


Lead in Drinking Water: Guide for Toronto, Halton and Peel Region

Until recently, you might’ve thought that lead pipes were a thing of the past. But a recent investigation by Global News and The Toronto Star has served as a wake-up call to the fact that lead is still a very real concern here in the Greater Toronto Area.

The truth is, there are nearly 26,000 city-owned lead water pipes still underground in Toronto. There are even more lead pipes in service on private properties in Toronto, Oakville, Mississauga and the surrounding regions.

You want to make sure your family’s water is safe. As certified plumbers, we have received a lot of calls about this in recent days. We want to help you by providing concrete information on this issue as it pertains to homeowners in the Region of Halton, Peel Region and the City of Toronto.

In this guide, we’ll discuss:

  1. Why people are suddenly talking about lead in drinking water
  2. How and why water becomes contaminated with lead in the first place
  3. What constitutes an unsafe level of lead in drinking water
  4. How to find out if there is lead in your home’s drinking water
  5. What you can do to protect yourself and your family

We will also provide links to sources with more information at the end of this article.

Why Is Lead-Contaminated Drinking Water Back In the News?

Until 1975, lead was commonly used as a material for plumbing pipes. Lead was also present in solder used to join pipes together until 1986, and could be found in faucets and plumbing fixtures and hardware as recently as 2014.

Although lead water pipes have been banned in Canada since the mid-70s, many thousands of lead pipes remain in service to this day. Fixtures and solder containing lead are also present in homes, schools and other buildings.

Recently, a group of Canadian journalists published the results of a Canada-wide investigation into the concentration of lead found in our drinking water. This has served as a wake-up call on the prevalence of lead in Ontario schools and daycares, one third of which tested for higher-than-recommended levels of lead.

The reports have also sparked renewed concerns about the possibility of lead turning up in the water we drink every day at home.

How Does Lead Get Into Drinking Water?

In Canada, lead rarely enters the water at its natural source (which in our region is Lake Ontario) or at a water treatment plant. In most cases, water becomes contaminated at some point between the water treatment and the tap due to aging lead pipes.

Like any metal, lead is prone to corrosion. When pipes and other plumbing materials containing lead begin to corrode, water can become contaminated with dissolved lead.

Lead can enter drinking water at various points between the treatment plant and the tap. It can seep in from a city-owned water supply line, a water line on private property, solder in a joint between pipes, a water valve, or a fixture like a faucet or drinking fountain.

The risk of lead contamination depends on many factors, including:

  • How long water stays in the pipe (stagnant water has longer exposure)
  • Temperature of the water (warm water is more corrosive than cold water)
  • Amount of lead in the pipe or fixture (whether they are ‘pure’ lead materials)
  • Water chemistry (soft water is more corrosive than hard water)
  • Types and amounts of minerals in the water

What Is Considered an Unsafe Amount of Lead?

Lead levels in drinking water are measured based on the amount of lead (in milligrams) found in a one-litre water sample.

On March 25, 2019, Health Canada updated the federal guideline for lead in drinking water from 0.010 mg/L to 0.005 mg/L, reducing the acceptable concentration of lead in half.

As of November 2019, the guidelines in Ontario have not been brought in line with the federal guidelines. In Ontario, a concentration of 0.010 mg/L is still considered acceptable.

However. Health Canada and the CDC agree that there is no “safe” level of lead when it comes to babies, children and developing fetuses. Lead exposure, even at low levels, can interfere with brain development.

How Can I Find Out If There is Lead in My Home’s Water?

Houses built before 1975 are at a higher risk of lead contamination because they are more likely to have lead plumbing. If your home is 50 years old or more, it is also possible that the water supply line from the city to your home is made of lead.

Houses built as late as 1986 could also be exposed to lead through lead-based solder used in water pipes. Additionally, any metal plumbing fixtures installed in Canada before 2014 could contain as much as 8% lead.

To find out if your drinking water contains unsafe concentrations of lead:

1. Contact a Licensed and Certified Plumber

The most efficient and accurate way to get answers about your home’s drinking water. A licensed and certified plumber can inspect your plumbing system for lead and offer a variety of solutions if your home is discovered to have lead pipes.

2. Inspect Your Pipes

Lead pipes are not easy to spot at first glance if you don’t have much experience with plumbing. However, there are a few things you can do to try and determine if a specific pipe is made of lead:

  • Lead is non-ferrous, so pure lead pipes will not attract a magnet.
  • Lead is easy to scratch with a knife or key.
  • Lead is a dull grey colour, but fresh scratches will appear silvery.

Keep in mind that the majority of your home’s plumbing system is ‘invisible’ − hidden behind walls, beneath floorboards and under the ground. Just because you cannot see any lead pipes doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

3. Have Your Water Tested

An accredited laboratory that is licensed to test for lead can test a sample of your water for a fee.

Depending on where you live and the age of your house, you may also be eligible for free water testing through your regional government.

  • Toronto: If your home was built before the mid-1950s, you can submit a water sample to the City for free testing
  • Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon: You can call or email the Region to request a free lead water test.
  • Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills: If your home was built before 1990, you can ask Halton Region to test for lead levels from your indoor tap for free.

If you’re worried about your drinking water, we recommend installing a reverse osmosis filtration system. It removes 99% of all common chemical contaminants, bacteria and sediment. You’ll be prepared for any drinking water issue that comes to light.

How Can I Protect My Family from Lead?

We understand how stressful it is to question whether your water is safe to drink. Here are several concrete solutions you can take immediately, in the near future, and in the long term to protect your family.

What To Do Right Now

  • Do NOT boil water before drinking it if you suspect it contains lead. Because water evaporates during boiling, this actually increase the concentration of lead in the water.
  • If water has not been used for several hours, run each tap until it becomes colder (for 30 seconds to 2 minutes) before drinking or cooking. This flushes the line and can reduce the concentration of lead by up to 90%.
  • If you have a baby who is on formula, use ready-to-drink formula instead of formula that must be prepared with water.

What To Do Next

What To Do Eventually

  • Have any lead pipes or fixtures containing lead removed and replaced. Although a reverse osmosis filter can ensure that your water is safe according to Health Canada’s guidelines, repiping is the only way to guarantee that all sources of lead are removed from your water supply.

More Information

To book a same-day or next-day plumbing inspection for your home in the Greater Toronto Area, call (905) 829-1296 or get in touch online. Our plumbing technicians can quickly determine whether your home’s plumbing system is safe.

We can also install a reverse osmosis filtration system, which removes traces of lead and 99% of all common chemical contaminants, bacteria and sediment from your drinking water. With a reverse osmosis system, you can rest assured that your family is safe from exposure to lead from household plumbing or city-owned water lines.

For more information about lead contamination in drinking water:

To find out if you are eligible to have your water tested for free by the City or Region:


How to Know If Your Sump Pump is Working Properly

We know how easy it is to let your home’s plumbing fall by the wayside, especially when everything seems to be flowing smoothly. But it’s quite important to have your plumbing system checked every now and then, even when nothing appears to be wrong.

That’s especially true of your sump pump.

You might not use it very often, but performing regular maintenance and replacing your sump pump when necessary can spare you hundreds or thousands of dollars in water damage. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about sump pumps: what they are, how they work, what types are available and how long they last.

  • What a sump pump is and how it works
  • How do I know if my home has a sump pump?
  • What kind of sump pump do I need?
  • How long does a sump pump last?
  • Why a sump pump is important for the value of your home
  • Can I install a sump pump myself?

Start by answering the question, “What is a sump pump?”

What a Sump Pump Is and How It Works

A sump pump is an electrical appliance designed to drain groundwater from outside the wall of your basement or crawl space, and keep the space dry. Basically, it prevents flooding in and around the foundation of your home.

It’s actually a pretty simple device. The pump is installed in a pit in your basement (called the sump). When it detects water in the sump, the pump activates and pumps the water away from your house through a network of pipes.

Your sump pump may run rarely or often, depending on the moisture in the soil around your house. It only runs when water needs to be drained.

Things that affect how often your sump pump runs include the slope of the ground around your house and the depth of groundwater in your area.

How Do I Know if My Home Has a Sump Pump?

If your home was built before the 1980s, it probably was not built with a sump pump. However, it may have had one installed later on.

Homes built during the 80s and later that have a basement likely do have a sump pump. If your house is on a crawlspace, you’ll need to look to see if a sump pump is there.

Note the houses built on a slab typically do not have sump pumps.

To identify a sump pump in your home, look around your basement or crawlspace for a formed pit or hole in the floor with a pipe that comes out of it and exits the house.

What Kind of Sump Pump Do I Need?

Sump pumps are categorised by the amount of water they can displace, and they come in a variety of outputs. Typically, homes in Toronto do well with a ⅓ horsepower pump.

Additionally, you’ll see sump pumps in these styles:

  • Pedestal—Good for smaller pits when there isn’t sufficient room for a submersible pump.
  • Submersible—Sits below water level, inside the sump basin, and is quieter, less obtrusive, and safer than pedestal pumps. These are standard sump pumps and they are more efficient and longer-lasting than alternatives.

How Long Does a Sump Pump Last?

Speaking of longevity, a typical submersible sump pump lasts about 10 years. Although your sump pump may run into problems as time goes on, many of them can be avoided through regular maintenance.

Why a Sump Pump is Important for the Value of Your Home

A sump pump is a fast, safe, and reliable way to protect your home from water damage. With the increase in springtime flooding in the Greater Toronto Area, you must make sure your sump pump is ready to help when you need it. So don’t wait until flooding season is upon us to have yours checked out!

Can I Install a Sump Pump Myself?

Some homeowners have successfully installed a replacement sump pump once their current pump has passed its effective date. However, with that in mind, consider the benefits of hiring a professional instead of taking the DIY approach:

  • The work gets done faster.
  • We already have all the parts and materials needed to get the work done.
  • We can help you determine which type of pump is best for your home.
  • We will know what size of pit needs to be made relative to the size of the sump pump.
  • We’ll ensure that the pit is properly sealed to keep dirt and debris out of the pump.
  • Finally, our professional plumbers can offer you tips to keep your sump pump in good condition and your home’s foundation dry.

With nearly 25 years in the plumbing business and over 85 years serving the Greater Toronto Area, our licensed and certified plumbers will go the extra mile to make sure you’re protected from flooding and water damage. Call us or get in touch with us online to learn more about maintenance or installation of your own sump pump.

Must-Know Facts About Kitec Plumbing: Recall, Lawsuit & Repair Costs

After January 9, 2020, you can no longer get compensation for the cost of replacing defective Kitec plumbing. You will have to pay out of pocket, which could easily amount to several thousand dollars down the drain.

But there is still time to make sure you get reimbursed for having these faulty pipes removed from your home. The sooner you act, the less you risk having to open your wallet later.

If you want to talk to our certified technician immediately you can call this number: 647-952-2012. Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about Kitec Plumbing.

You know those bright, blue and orange pipes running from your water heater? Bad news: those colourful water lines could be a flood waiting to happen…and the time to replace them is quickly running out.

Kitec plumbing systems, which were recalled due to defects back in 2005, were installed in hundreds of thousands of homes across Canada – including many thousands here in the Greater Toronto Area.

Depending on the size of your house, the cost to replace defective Kitec plumbing could range in the thousands to tens of thousands of dollars.

Kitec is not an issue to take lightly, but don’t panic. There are several ways you can recoup the cost of replacing Kitec in your home through your insurance company, plumbing installer, or the ongoing Kitec class action lawsuit.

We’ll help you understand everything you need to know about Kitec systems in your home, including how to join the Kitec class action lawsuit.

  1. Quick Facts About Kitec
  2. What is Kitec Plumbing?
  3. How Do I Know if There’s Kitec Plumbing in My Home?
  4. How Much Does It Cost to Replace Kitec Plumbing?
  5. Can I Be Compensated For Kitec Plumbing in Canada?

Quick Facts About Kitec

  • Installed as plumbing and heating piping in Canada and the United States between 1995 and 2007.
  • Identified by a bright blue or orange colour and the label ASTM 1281.
  • Sold under the brand names Kitec, PlumbBetter, IPEX AQUA, WarmRite, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls, Plomberie Améliorée.
  • Recalled in 2005 due to failure of pipes and fittings, costing millions of homeowners thousands of dollars in catastrophic water damage.
  • Cost to replace Kitec plumbing depends mainly on the size of the house but typically costs upward of $2,000.
  • Homeowners with Kitec installations are entitled to get money from a $125 million settlement but time to claim that money is running out. You can join a class action lawsuit against the manufacturer IPEX. The deadline to join is January 9, 2020.

What Is Kitec Plumbing?

Kitec was the “go-to” pipe used in plumbing and heating installations between 1995 and 2007. It was manufactured by a company called IPEX Inc. which still exists to this day.

Kitec is a composite plumbing material made from five layers of metal, plastics and resin adhesives, with brass fittings.

The outermost plastic layer is usually colour-coded to indicate hot water (bright orange) or cold water (bright blue). The label ‘ASTM 1281’ is printed on the outer layer in black lettering.

Starting in the late 1990s, Kitec was marketed as a cost-effective alternative to copper pipe that was also much easier to install. IPEX Inc. and its distributor sold Kitec plumbing under the names Kitec, PlumbBetter, IPEX AQUA, WarmRite, Kitec XPA, AmbioComfort, XPA, KERR Controls, Plomberie Améliorée.

Kitec caught on big time. And why not? It was cheap, simple, and at first appeared to work just as well as traditional copper piping.

Of course, it wasn’t long before things started to go south.

Homeowners across Canada and the United States began to report numerous problems with Kitec pipes:

  • Despite layers of protective plastic and resin, both the aluminum layer of the pipes and the brass fittings had a tendency to corrode quickly.
  • Kitec fittings contained very high levels of zinc, which reacted with the chemical composition of Kitec and leached minerals into the pipe. This caused the fittings to degrade quickly and a build up of zinc oxide that restricted the flow of water.
  • The plastic and aluminum layers expanded and contracted with temperature changes, weakening over time until the pipe burst.

These defective pipes caused millions of dollars in damage in a very short period of time. Not only did people have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars to have their pipes replaced, but many were also left with extensive water damage, structural deficiencies, electrical problems and black mould.

In 2005, Kitec plumbing was recalled across North America. Unfortunately, some plumbing and heating contractors continued to install Kitec plumbing for years afterward, so there are homes built as recently as 2007 which contain Kitec.

Many contractors and homeowners have been proactive in removing Kitec plumbing before it inevitably fails. There’s no telling exactly how many people live in homes that still use Kitec today…and unfortunately, many of them don’t even realize it’s a flood just waiting to happen.

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Talk to a licenced and certified plumber about having your Kitec plumbing replaced now while there’s still time to claim compensation for your trouble.

How Do I Know if There’s Kitec Plumbing in My Home?

Although Kitec pipes were sold under many names, they almost all have a few things in common that makes Kitec relatively easy to identify:

  1. Colour. Most Kitec pipes are either bright orange or bright blue. Ironically, this was originally one of its selling points, since it helped people distinguish their hot and cold water lines. Now, it helps us know which pipes need to go.
  2. Number. The label ‘ASTM 1281’is printed on the outer layer of Kitec pipes.
  3. Age. Knowing when the pipes were installed is also helpful, since most installations occurred during or after 1997 and no later than 2007.

One easy way to tell if your home has Kitec plumbing is to look at the pipes leading from your water heater. You can also check under your kitchen and bathroom sinks.

If you’re still not sure whether your home has Kitec, the best thing to do is to call a plumber now.

How Much Does it Cost to Replace Kitec Plumbing?

The cost to replace Kitec plumbing in Ontario really depends on the size of your house.

It’s difficult to pin down the cost of an ‘average’ Kitec replacement job because Kitec was installed in so many different types of homes: bungalows, townhouses, multi-story homes, and many, many condominiums.

Given such a wide range of possibilities, we’re reluctant to provide a concrete estimate without knowing anything about your home. However, we can say that it often costs upward of $2,000. If you don’t submit a claim before January 9, 2020, you will need to pay these costs out of pocket.

Understand that even if your Kitec plumbing has not caused problems yet, you cannot count on it to last. Many thousands of homeowners have made that mistake and paid dearly for it.

Contact us now for fast answers to any questions you have about replacing Kitec.

Can I Be Compensated For Kitec Plumbing in Canada?

If there is Kitec installed in your home (or did before you had it replaced) you may be able to receive some compensation to help cover the cost of replacing your Kitec pipes if you act as soon as possible.

Your potential avenues for compensation include:

  1. The class-action lawsuit against IPEX Inc.
  2. Home insurance coverage
  3. Your plumbing contractor

Please know that the following is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. You should contact your legal counsel for advice on any specific legal issues and speak to a licensed and certified plumber regarding the Kitec plumbing in your home.

1. Join the Kitec Class Action Lawsuit

In 2012, the manufacturer of Kitec plumbing, IPEX Inc., entered into a class action lawsuit settlement for $125 million.

As part of this settlement, IPEX paid into a monetary fund will eventually be paid out to compensate homeowners and others who who had Kitec installations.

Homeowners in Canada who make a claim before January 2020 are eligible for 50% of the average cost to repair or replace Kitec piping and fittings.

To join the Kitec class action lawsuit:

  1. Visit the Kitec Settlement website. This site is run by the law firm representing the claimants.
  2. Find out if you are eligible to make a claim.
  3. Follow the instructions on the site to request and complete a claim form.

Unfortunately, even if you are eligible, there’s no way of knowing how much money you can or will receive from this settlement. Since there is a limited amount in the settlement fund, the amount that each claimant receives will depend on the number of claimants in total.

The deadline to file a claim is January 2020. Contact us to book your Kitec plumbing replacement today.

2. Make a Home Insurance Claim

Depending on the terms of your home insurance policy, you may be covered in the event of a flood caused by burst or leaking Kitec piping in your home.

Some home insurers have been willing to cover all or part of the cost to replace Kitec piping to avoid having to eventually pay out a claim for water damage.

However, this is not true of all home insurers.

Some insurers, when informed that your home has Kitec, will require that you replace it in order to keep your coverage…but not cover the cost of that replacement. Others will increase your insurance premiums if you do not have the Kitec plumbing replaced yourself.

In any case, it’s important to familiarize yourself with what your home insurance does and doesn’t cover when it comes to water damage.

3. Reach Out to Your Plumbing Contractor

When Kitec was recalled back in 2005, contractors who had installed Kitec were required to inform people of the recall.

If your contractor never bothered to inform you, they could be on the hook for the cost of replacing it.

However, since many homes with Kitec were purchased and sold before the recall, it’s not always easy to track down the contractor and hold them responsible.

What to Do If Your Home Has Kitec Plumbing

The first step will be to confirm that your home does, in fact, have Kitec. A licensed and certified plumber can do that in no time.

Next, you’ll want to have the plumbing assessed for any immediate risks. This will help you figure out the timeline for replacement and whether it is worth making interim repairs.

In the meantime, it’s also imperative that you know exactly how to turn off your water main in the event of a burst pipe. This is something we think every homeowner should know, but when you’re dealing with Kitec, you cannot take any chances.

You don’t have to deal with this alone. If you have any questions about Kitec piping and how it affects you, call us at 647-952-2012 or reach out to us online by filling out the form below.

Learn More About Kitec Plumbing Today

We’ll respond to your request within 2 hours during regular business hours. For emergency service, please call 647-952-2012.