Toronto Homeowners Take Note: 3 Important Changes to the Plumbing Code

Bob Dylan once famously sang, “The times, they are a-changing”. And while he was undoubtedly talking about the social and cultural upheaval of 60’s America, his words apply to just about everything in the modern world, plumbing included. As we learn more about the impact of different materials, as new innovations in emergency prevention are popularized, and as our cultural attitudes shift to reflect a growing eco-consciousness, plumbing as we know it changes.

And those changes are reflected in the plumbing codes. Sometimes codes are slow to – for lack of a better term – get with the times. They mandate what was already considered by plumbers to be essentials, and so they serve as a kind of lagging, written history of improvements in the industry.

Still, there are a few changes every homeowner in Toronto should be aware of, not only for legal reasons, but because some of these mandated plumbing installations can save your home… and possibly your life. As your trusted Toronto plumber, we here at Mister Plumber want to give you the entire package – a service that includes a free plumbing estimate in Toronto as well as advising you on pertinent changes in plumbing that affect your life.

Here we have four of, what we believe, are the most notable recent changes to the code. We’ll do our best in each to explain why the change is important and how you, as a homeowner, benefit.

Backwater Valve Installation toronto

Backwater Valve Installation

The first notable change to the plumbing code that we want to discuss is the mandatory backwater valve installation for new constructions. After about of heavy rains flooded a number of houses across Toronto, causing innumerable costs in damaged basements, the city counsel made a 2007 decision to require backwater valves. The code states that every new house must have a backwater valve, and it is mandatory for existing houses as well, when the homeowner applies for a plumbing permit that implies some work in the basement.

You may be reticent to get a backwater valve because you’ve never had a flood, but it is honestly one of the most important installations a Toronto homeowner can get. It often rains very hard here, and the heavy rain can overtake the city sewer system, pushing its way into private pipes and, eventually, into your home. Before long, without a backwater valve as protection, your basement can be filled with wastewater. It’s not only disgusting, but it’s also incredibly costly and dangerous to your health.

A backwater valve is a device that prevents sewage from backing up to the fixtures located below street level, (all plumbing fixtures in the basement), through the simple use of a one-way valve. The gate allows wastewater to leave your home, but it shuts firm when wastewater tries to enter your home.

Sump Pump Installation

Another change to the plumbing code is the requirement of a sump pump installation in Toronto that manages groundwater. In order to achieve this, weeping tiles are installed along the perimeter of the house, which transports underground water to the sump pit, where a pump then discharges it outside away from foundation walls. In older houses, weeping tiles have a connection to the sanitary drain, using a floor drain trap in the furnace room.

Again, the heavy rainfall in Toronto was proving a financial nuisance to a lot of homeowners, as the water was seeping into the basement via the ground. The City considered the issue, worried momentarily that expelling groundwater into the sewer drain could overload the lake with impurities. Ultimately, the City decided that groundwater doesn’t contain human impurities and can, therefore, flow to the lake without treatment. They did, however, mandate the sump pump, which doesn’t overtax the sewer system, but rather distributes groundwater back to the soil, albeit away from the home’s foundation.

If you like your basement – and we’re sure you do – but you don’t yet have a sump pump and pit set up, call us today at Mister Plumber. We’ve installed more sump pits that we can count, and offer precise, professional and affordable service.

The City of Toronto even offers kickbacks for sump pump installation and backwater valve installation through its Basement Flooding Protection Subsidy Program. You need to use a licensed plumber to be eligible, but luckily we’ve got your back on that front.

Air Tight Lid for Sump Pump

Air Tight Lid for Sump Pump

The most recent change in the code is that mandate of airtight lids for sump pits. Airtight lids prevent harmful soil gas and/or Radon from entering your living space. According to scientific research done globally, the gas can be in high concentration in the basement and can cause cancer for people living in the building.

Radon, as you might know, is colourless and odourless, so it’s extremely difficult to detect, and yet it’s a potent carcinogen capable of real long-term damage – next to smoking, it’s the main cause of lung cancer. It does this by introducing radioactive inhalant elements into the surrounding air. It comes from the breakdown of soil and rock, so you can see why a sump pit could be ground zero for exposure. Without an airtight seal, the groundwater containing radon that cycles through will emit dangerous levels of the stuff.

If you are unsure whether your sump pit has an airtight seal, call us immediately for plumbing services in Toronto – we’ll take care of it. In the picture at the top of the article, you can see a lid with bolts that make a water- and air-tight connection of the sump basin and lid. The other picture, just above this section, shows some yellow plastic that wraps around the drainpipes so air from the soil can’t go through. 

There are other changes to the plumbing code, nationally and locally, that have either just been introduced or are imminent, like the mandatory water-use efficiency requirements that the Canadian Institute of Plumbing and Heating announced in 2015, which begins its second phase in 2020. But that’s a subject for another blog post. For now, the above three mandates are what we consider to be the most important to Toronto homeowners. It may be technical and complicated stuff, but the end goal is always the same: to keep homeowners safer.