Frequently Asked Questions

Why has my driveway cracked? Spalling? Or heaving? Is this a concern? Should I be worried about empty voids under the slab?

Concrete in Northern Alberta is a hard thing to maintain against the harsh weather and quick weather changes. There are many steps you can take to preserve the concrete (sealant, using driveway safe deicers, not overloading the weight capacity of the pad, etc.) However even after all these preventative measures, you can still have defects occur. Some of these occurrences include spalling, cracking or heaving.

Spalling is the “flaking” or “deterioration” of the top layer of concrete and is more than likely caused by salts, fertilizer, vehicle oils, and other harmful chemicals leeching in to the concrete and dissolving it.

Cracking in concrete can occur when it shrinks during the drying process. It can also occur if the concrete is over weighted, or shifting takes place. Cracks in concrete are normal and are not considered defects unless over ¼ inch (6mm).

Heaving in the concrete occurs when there is water build up and it freezes and melts. Water management is homeowner responsibility and any cracks that occur because of heaving are not warrantable and are not considered defects.

Voids will occur under concrete slabs and are not considered defects. The rebar in the concrete, along with the concrete is rated to span voids and hold a certain weight.

My overhead door is squeaky/loud. What can I do to lessen this?

An overhead door is made of many parts. One part in particular needs to be maintained, or it can affect the ability of the door and the function. This item is the chain on the center metal bracket that the motor moves, and when the chain makes its rotations, it moves the door up or down. Because this chain is a moving part, it needs to be greased and kept in good working condition.

If it is not kept up than it will start to squeal and harden, causing the chain to jerk and be noisy. This can even lead to the door having problems opening and closing.

To keep the chain in good working order, you simply need to grease it with WD-40 or a product similar to it. Make sure to read the directions on the product, and ensure it is safe to use on chains. It is a good idea to keep an eye on the functionality of your door and if you notice a squealing or jerking, it could be time to give it a minor greasing.

Should I be sealing my driveway? When and how?

We strongly recommend sealing your driveway at least once a year, before the temperatures get too low in the fall.

First, you should clean your driveway with a pressure washer to ensure it has as little debris and stains as possible before sealing.

Once your driveway is completely dry (should leave for 24 hrs), you can either buy a sprayer from a hardware store, or use a roller to apply the driveway sealer. Note: ensure you use a sealer that is specified for concrete, and read all instructions on the product prior to using.

We suggest sealing your driveway before winter so that you can help better protect your concrete from any salts on the roads or salts used on walk way. Salts can cause your concrete to spall and chip.

We still suggest not using a deicer with salt in it. This is just one more preventative measure to ensure a long life for your concrete.

My overhead door is not closing properly. What is wrong? How do I fix it?

Many times if the overhead door will not close all the way, perhaps stops part way down, it is because something is in the way of the “eyes” connecting with each other. The “eyes” are the two lenses on either side of the overhead door near the ground. These are installed for safety reasons, so if there is something/someone under the garage door when it is closing the door will stop and go back to the top.

If your overhead door is not closing all the way, you check and there is nothing in the way then it could mean that one of the “eyes” were bumped and moved. Imagine that there is a laser pointing between both lenses. If both “eyes” are not pointing at each other, then the ”laser” won’t touch and the “eyes” will read that as a blockage.

There is a light on each “eye” that will indicate when they are in line with each other. If both are perfectly in line with each other there will be a solid green light on one “eye” and a solid orange on the other. When one is out of place then the lights will turn off.

Last item to check is the wiring on the motor as well. If the wires are touching/crossing in any way, or if you have tried everything and there is still an issue than we suggest calling the overhead door company to send a technician, or Unique Home Concepts if you are still within the one year warranty period.

Why do I have frost on my Garage Overhead door?

In winter you will have snow melt off your vehicle and evaporate into the air, creating a large amount of condensation. When it is below freezing outside the moisture in the air crystalizes on the overhead door, because it is the coldest surface. The colder it is outside, then the higher amount of frost build up you will have on the inside of your garage. This probability of this situation is greater if the garage is not heated.

This occurrence is normal, and can be controlled, but never fully avoided.

There is pooling of water in my garage. Is this normal? Why does it happen?

Sometimes in a garage you can notice pooling. This can occur in different places for different reasons, but for the most part is a normal occurrence.

The concrete in the garage is entrained with air to allow water to expand once frozen without damaging the surface of the concrete. The garage slab is installed by bull float method to allow air bubbles to stay in the concrete, leaving a rougher finish to help avoid slips. This method is according to the Alberta Building Code for any exterior concrete (outside the home).

This method is done by hand and so there can sometimes be small dips in the concrete where water may “pool” when the ground is wet. This is not a defect; Alberta New Home Warranty recognizes that there will be some minor pooling as long as the general slope is uniform to the direction the home builder has chosen. If you have a pit and grate in the center of the floor, than the concrete floor will slope towards it, if you do not have a pit, then the concrete should be sloped towards the overhead door so it can escape.

If you do not have a floor drain, than you may sometimes have pooling against the overhead door. When the concrete is being troweled, the installer will hand trowel the door entrance to be a different slope so that when the door is closed the water on the outside stays outside. Due to the change in slope, you may have minor pooling by the door. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to remove or push the small amount of water outside, or to allow for it to evaporate.

In winter you can have what is called “ice damming”. This occurs where the melted water meets the cold door and freezes, or the snow outside has built up so that the melting water can no longer drain past the garage threshold. The door can sometimes be frozen shut, which can damage the weather strip. Much of the snow melt from vehicles contains road salts or other damaging chemicals, if water is left to sit on the concrete it can eat away at the top layer over time. Another side effect is water building up inside the garage. If the garage is not heated this water can freeze and be a slip hazard. This water is the responsibility of the homeowner to remove or push the small amount of water outside.

When the temperature is below 0°C I notice a moisture/ice buildup on windows. Why is this?

Condensation is the result of humidity and temperature. When the humidity in the air is met with cooler temperatures it is converted into a liquid form instead of a vapor. This is why we see condensation on the glass of a cool drink in a hot room, or the water droplets on the windows when you have cooler weather outside. If you have condensation in your home, it does not mean there is a defect, it simply coincides with the humidity level in your home.

There are things the home owner can do to control, maintain, and monitor humidity levels in the home:

  • Keeping your blinds open, or a minimum inch or two up off the window jam as much as possible will allow the moving air from the furnace or furnace fan to warm the inside pane of the window. The warm inner pane of the window will help to keep the humid air from condensing on the glass
  • If there is no air movement in the room or against the window the damp air will settle against the window and convert into water droplets, and if exposed to cold temperatures for a long period of time can turn into ice. Running the furnace fan for a longer period of time when the temperature outside is in the minus can help keep the humid air off the windows, therefore lessoning the amount of condensation build up.
  • The furnace fan can be switched to “on” from “auto” on the thermostat. This function does not run the furnace, just the fan to move around air inside the home. The furnace fan can be left on for as long as you like to have it on, or until the condensation/frost has dissipated.
  • The fresh air intake (switch located above the thermostat) functions to bring in fresh air from outside and exchange it with air from inside the home. This intake is programmed to come on three times daily for 20 minutes at a time, we recommend as a minimum to leave the three settings. This exchange works in conjunction with the furnace fan to distribute fresh air throughout the home.
  • Finally, it is important to regulate the amount of moisture and humidity going into the air in your home. You can help to reduce this by running all bath fans for the duration of the shower or bath and a minimum 15 minutes after to ensure moisture is being vented outside. This also goes for cooking, ensure to run the range hood fan while cooking.

In severe temperatures (-30 or lower) you may also see a frost or moisture build up on your door knobs and around the door. Metal is a great conductor and will absorb the cold temperature outside and carry to the inside portion of the knob easier than a wall or door slab. This is normal and can be controlled the same way as the steps you take for your windows.

These tips are no guarantee that it will ELIMINATE the moisture, but it will lessen the effects of condensation build up. As a precaution we advise that you also wipe down any excess water after outside temperatures increase, as the water can run into the window trim and can cause swelling in the wood.

Why is my silicone cracking? How do I fix it?

Silicone or caulking is something you will want to check on a yearly basis as it can dry and crack or breakdown due to normal wear and tear.

When silicone is damaged, it is best to start from scratch with a new bead of silicone. The first step to doing this will be to use the putty knife or utility knife to gently scrape away the existing silicone from the area and wipe down with the damp cloth to ensure the work space is clean. Then use a dry cloth or paper towel to dry the area.

Next you want to familiarize yourself with the caulking gun. On the back you will see a release button that you will need to use at the end of each silicone line to keep from getting excess silicone onto other nearby surfaces which is difficult to clean.

When you start a bead of silicone you will want to start in one corner and in one fluid motion carry it all the way to another corner or edge.

After the silicone is applied, wet your finger in the damp cloth and to ensure there are no ripples or breaks in the silicone drag your finger in a similar fluid motion along the silicone bead.

Wipe any excess silicone off your finger onto a dry paper towel, and repeat the process for as many areas as needed.

Why is my grout cracking? How do I fix it?

Grout is something you will want to check on a yearly basis as it can settle, crack and erode depending on traffic, cleaners, etc. You can find the colour of your grout by checking the colour selection sheet found in the “Your Home” section of the New Home Owner Manual . If you cannot find it you can contact Unique Home Concepts to assist you.

Once you know what grout color you will need you can purchase it from any tile or hardware store, Unique Home Concepts purchases our product from Tile Ideal. You should only need a very small amount of grout for touch ups.

Simply add a small amount of water to the grout and apply it to the crack or gap. To do this you can use a grout applicator, or for a small job even a putty knife or a finger. Immediately after applying the grout gently wipe the excess away from the area. After several hours of drying (check instructions on grout container), wash the area completely to get rid of excess grout on surrounding areas.

When should I change my furnace filter? Is it a certain kind?

You should be checking or changing your furnace filters on a regular basis to ensure your furnace is circulating clean air and running efficiently.

First step is to ensure you shut your furnace off with the switch located either on the unit or on an adjacent wall

Simply slide out the furnace filter to check the quality and color of the filter. You will be able to tell based on the color, transparency and build-up of dirt particles if it is time to change the filter.

All furnace filters will have information of their size as well as directional arrows on the edge explaining which direction it is to be inserted. The arrows will point the direction of the air flow, and towards the furnace unit.

Once everything is in place simply switch back on your furnace.

What is a downspout and when should I be using them?

Your grading is sloped in such a way so surface water flows away from your house. This lessens the amount of water that gets to the weeping tile system, and in turn ejected from the sump pump.

A downspout is located at the bottom of the house, and can be placed in an up or down position. A downspouts function is to further direct the water away from the house. Any water that hits the roof will flow into the eaves trough that flows to specified corners and is released into the downspouts.

When a down spout is in the “up” position the water will release directly beside the foundation. Some water will still flow away from the house, but there will be seepage into the ground directly by the foundation. Leaving the downspout in the “up” position for an extended period of time can cause settling and pools in ground below the spout.

When the downspout is in the “down” position the water expelled from the roof is taken away from the foundation and therefore less water will seep into the ground surrounding the foundation.

We suggest having your downspouts down in the summer, especially whenever it is raining. In the winter season we suggest having the downspouts down whenever the temperature is high and there is melting.

How do I know if my sump pump is working?

We recommend that you check your sump pump is working at least once a year. The best time to check is in the spring or as the snow starts to melt.

You can many times hear or see your sump pump working, however there is an additional sequence of steps you can follow to ensure all components are in working order:

  1. The first item to check is the pump itself. Simply unplug the cord from the outlet; you will see two cords plugged into each other, one for the float which is the part in the wall, and one for the pump which is plugged into the back of the float plug. Detach the pump cord and plug it directly into the outlet and you should hear it kick on.
  2. Once you are finished checking the pump, plug both cords back together and into the wall outlet as you found them. The sump pump should always remain hooked to a power source; at no point through the year should it be unplugged.
  3. The second item to check is the float. This is the component that should engage the pump once a certain water level is reached. To check the float, unscrew the top of the sump pit with a screwdriver or drill, as seen in the video. Reach into the sump pit with your hand and manually lift the float until you hear the pump engage.

Finish by re-attaching the cover on the sump pit with the four screws, one in each corner.

What is a sump hose? And when should I be using it?

Your sump hose should consist of three components, a plastic adaptor, a metal clasp, and the hose itself.

  • First step is to insert the adaptor into the pipe, thread side in, and ensure it is screwed in nice and tight.
  • Next, simply slide the metal clasp over the end of the sump hose, and slide the end of the hose over the adaptor.
  • Using a screwdriver or drill, tighten the screw on the clasp until your hose is firmly in place
  • Your final step is to run your sump hose in the direction of the slope of your property (either to the front or back) to ensure you are directing water away from your house.
  • You should be installing your sump hose onto your house in the spring or as the snow starts to melt to ensure that water is directed away from the foundation.
  • A good time to take your sump hose off is any time the temperature drops below 0 degrees Celsius. This will prevent the sump hose from freezing and breaking, or potentially causing a sump failure if the water cannot be pumped out.