Plumbing pipes in Residential homes built before the mid 1950's were commonly made of
lead, a soft metal that is harmful to your health, especially children, according to the EPA and
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lead was also used to solder pipes
together before 1990, and can be found in leaded-brass fixtures, such as faucets and
valves. While passing through these pipes and fixtures, lead can be added to drinking water.
In 2011, Toronto City Council approved the Lead in Drinking Water Mitigation Strategy, a
multi-pronged approach aimed at minimizing the occurrence of lead in tap water.
Components of this strategy with links to learn more can be found below.
A year-long investigation by more than 120 journalists from nine universities and 10 media
organizations, including the Toronto Star and the Institute for Investigative Journalism
collected test results that properly measure exposure to lead in 11 cities across Canada. Out
of 12,000 tests since 2014, one third, 33% exceeded the National Safety Guideline of 5 parts
per billion...read the full report.
How do you know if you have lead pipes. If your house was built before 1950. Check the pipe
which goes to the water meter If it is grey and scratches easily and does not sound hollow
when you tap it, it may be lead. The City of Toronto also has Free Lead Testing Kits to see if
your water contains lead. I recommend you use a licensed plumber to be conclusive. Here is
a youtube video on How to identify Lead and Galvanized Water Pipes.
What do you do if you have lead pipes. There are several things you can do, such as, let the
water run for a while, use cold water and or use an approved filter, etc. But replacement of
the pipe on the city side and the house side is recommended
Toronto has a Priority Lead Water Service Replacement Program where if your committed to
replacing your portion of the pipe you can apply to have your pipes changed. The program
will give you a couple of options, make sure you read it completely.
Toronto also has a Capital Water Service Replacement Program were the city replaces
substandard pipes during planned construction projects, such as road, sewer and water main
work. Here you can look up your street and see if the pipes were changed, they also
recommend you call 311 for a record search.
Toronto also has Free Lead Testing Kits. And a "Faucet Filter Rebate Program Application
If you live outside of Toronto and your home was built before 1950's or approx. Then I would
suggest you call your municipality's office and inquire if they have any type of program to
replace the lead pipe, if you have lead pipes. Call a licensed plumber to be conclusive.
Galvanized Pipes were used in Toronto up to the late 1950's. They were long lasting and
relatively inexpensive. Galvanized pipes are steel pipes which have a zinc coating. As time
passed this zinc coating would slowly erode exposing the steel which eventually leads to
rusting of the pipe.
The typical lifespan of the galvanized pipe is approximately 50 years. The majority of the
piping in Toronto is already at or past the typical life expectancy. Galvanized piping has a
tendency to rust from the inside out. Which can also cause weak structural properties which
results in low water pressure and rusty water.
Check with your insurance company as to their policy on galvanized piping.
To find a plumber or other compulsary trades person you can visit our web page with
contractor contact info General House Info - Contractors.
Tankless water heaters also called Instantaneous or Demand Water Heaters, provide hot water
only as it is needed. Traditional storage water heaters produce standby energy losses that cost
you money. We do not leave our homes heated while vacationing. We only heat our homes
when there is a demand for heat. In the same way, a Tankless Water Heater is used only when
there is a demand for hot water.
As an inspector I do come across tankless water heaters and I don't have a stand for or against
them. I can tell you that some people have complained to me about the lack of hot water in large
the same time. I recommend that you have your home and specific needs properly sized to
determine the appropriate unit or units.
Here is a site which has some good information. The information should only be used as a
guide. I recommend to consult with a local tankless water heater specialist who is appropriately
licensed and make sure you ask about warranty and maintenance.
Pressure Balanced Valves are those ones which have a single handle for the shower control, they
generally sense changes in hot or cold water pressure (such as a toilet being flushed or a cold water
tap being turned on) and compensate the temperature fluctuation by reducing the hot or cold water
pressure to provide a constant temperature. The water pressure or flow at the shower head will
reduce. You can see examples on Home Depots website.
Thermostatic Mixing Valves .Can change the flow or volume of water without changing the
temperature. There are thermostatic mixing valves which can be installed at the top of hot water tanks
for the whole house and ones which have two handles which can be placed inside individual showers.
The thermostatic mixing valve for your hot water tank can be set to a higher temperature to help
control bacterial contamination such as (Legionnaires' disease) meanwhile the temperature at the
shower head is at a lower temperature. You can see examples on Home Depots website or you can
look at the pictures to the right and at the left.
You can purchase a thermostatic mixing valve for an individual fixture such as a shower or sink or you
can purchase a whole house valve which connects at the top of the hot water tank. The thermostatic
mixing valves are more expensive then a pressure balancing valve and in all cases a licensed
plumber should be consulted to identify the right valve for your situation.
If you have low water pressure at your shower head it may be caused by the shower head or the
bathroom plumbing. You can try to clean the shower head or you can purchase a high pressure
shower head.A high pressure shower head is designed to deliver higher water pressure with the
same amount of water flow.
This is achieved through either adjustable spray settings or a pressure chamber design. Adjustable
spray settings simply condense your shower head spray for a smaller but stronger shower. A
pressure chamber works by adding air and pressure to the shower water, forcing the water out at
Bathroom Piping Restricted/Undersized
If you generally have low water pressure in your house, which can be more common in older areas of
the city, it may be caused by the Municipalities water supply and or the piping in your house such as
the diameter of the pipe or type of pipe such as Galvanized Piping, see above. You should consult
with a licensed plumber to review your options.
Does the water pressure and/or the temperature of the water change when you are taking a shower
and somebody flushes a toilet or turns on a dishwasher?
The reason could be one or more of the following:
Pressure-Balancing Mixing Valve vs a Thermostatic Mixing Valve.
The shower head
The bathroom piping is restricted and or undersized.
|Pressure - Balanced Mixing
Galvanized pipe cut open
Lead pipe before the meter
|Thermostatic Mixing Valve
Top of Hot Water Tank
|Thermostatic Mixing Valve
For Shower (another type)
|Thermostatic Mixing Valve
For Shower (one type)
Septic Systems or on-site waste water treatment is a system which treats your waste water from toilets,
sinks, dishwashers, laundry machines etc. Basically, the waste water is flushed or drained to a holding
tank, usually buried in the backyard, and then to a leaching bed also in the backyard where the liquid
is separated from the solid waste. The installation and maintenance of a Septic System is not only
important for the proper disposal of waste water but also to prevent any environmental issues as well
as unexpected financial costs. I highly recommend to read, SepticSmart understanding your Home's
Septic System and About Your House - Septic System for more info on septic systems.
These septic systems must be inspected and pumped out every 3-7 years depending on the size of
the system and number of people living in the house or you the owner could be in store for costly
upgrades and or improvements. You need to understand what system you have, how old is it, where is
it located and if any improvements are required.
Generally, typical city home inspectors may not have the training or equipment to perform an
end-to-end inspection of the septic system. If your looking to purchase a home with a septic system,
then I recommend to ask the current owner who have they been using to pump out the holding tanks
or who is maintaining the system. You might be able to call the company they use and ask them
questions about the septic system. Such as; is it working properly? how old is it? will I need to change
the tank soon, how can I maintain the system?? etc. etc.. I also recommend you have them come out
to inspect the system for you...it could save you money in the long run.
Where to find a Septic Specialist
If you can't find out who is servicing the system then you can check with the Ontario Association of
Sewage Industry Services website and you can search for a septic system professional. There is a
map and you can search by area code.
It's very important to maintain a properly installed septic system. This means what not to flush down
the drains as well as making sure your system is regularly maintained by a professional. Make sure
you read those articles above and call a septic system professional.
A Well Water System, is an excavation or structure created in the ground by digging, driving, or
drilling to access liquid resources, in this case water. The water is drawn up by a pump which brings it
into the home. A properly constructed well water system will keep contaminates and surface water out.
The system may consist of tanks, filtration systems and pumps.
There are three types, small-diameter, very small-diameter and large-diameter. It is important for well
owners to know what kind of well they have, including how it was built and its basic operation. You can
read the Factsheet by the Ministry of Agricultural Food and Rural Affairs for more info on wells.
Well Water Construction
In Ontario all wells constructed for water must be constructed based on specific legislation and
regulation regarding well licensing, construction, maintenance, abandonment, reporting and
documentation, which can be found in Wells Regulation under the Ontario Water Resource Act.
Additional information can be found at the Ontario Gov't website about Drinking Water - Wells on Your
The licensed contractor must submit a well record to the ministry and to you the well owner, any major
changes and or abandoning the well will also require a record. If you just moved onto a property with
a well and you don't have the record or your not sure how or where the well may be located then you
can request a copy of the well record from the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks. It's
your responsibility to understand what is on your property.
Licensed Well Contractor
When your improving, repairing or constructing a new well it's advisable to use a Licensed Well
Contractor. Water Wells can be a source of clean water but when not properly constructed or not
maintained can cause serious health issues due to unwanted contaminates entering the well.
Maintaining a Well Water System
As the owner of a well water system your not only responsible for the construction and or
maintenance of the actual system your also responsible for the quality of the water, remember your
drinking this water and it should be safe.
I believe the Ontario Gov't recommends to test your well water at least a minimum of three times per
year for bacterial contaminants, E.coli and total coliforms, these tests may be free, however to test for
harmful chemicals you will require a Licensed Private Laboratory to do the test. The Well Aware
Booklet starting on page 14 can give you more info about chemicals.
The Public Health Ontario's - Well Water Testing website can provide more information about taking a
sample (I believe you must use the gov't water sample collection kits), filling out the form, dropping off
the sample and understanding the results. You can also read the Well Aware Booklet which contains
lots of information about Well Life-Cycle, Maintenance and Water Quality. More information can also
be found at the Ontario Ground Water Association.