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Iron Ochre: The Toxic Enemy

By: Karine Dutemple

Iron Ochre: The Toxic Enemy

By: Karine Dutemple

Interior renovationsExterior renovationsIron Ochre: The Toxic Enemy

Due to the severe damage it can cause, iron ochre is an enemy to watch out for. This oxidizing iron substance deserves special attention, whether for the current homeowner who has dealt with its negative effects or for the potential homeowner who fears having to deal with it. Regardless, here is all of the relevant information you’ll need to know the signs of iron ochre. 


How does iron ochre form?

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Iron ochre deposits are a result of the presence of iron, oxygen and water in the soil. Specifically, the appearance and growth of ochre depend on a biological reaction, a chemical reaction or a combined effect of the two. The chemical reaction that creates iron ochre happens due to the presence of iron in the soil and is drawn up when mixed with water. Iron hydroxide is created when this mixture meets the air.

The biological reaction creates the presence of an iron-containing bacterium within the water table. This is known as Ferro-bacteria. Once this bacterium meets with air, the formation of a gelatinous substance occurs by way of the oxidization of the iron. Note that the combination of the biological reaction and the chemical one will greatly increase the quantity of iron ochre.

Certain conditions will be favourable for the appearance of iron ochre, and these include:

  • The presence of a filtered drain;
  • If you have a drain that is warped;
  • The presence of sandy soil;
  • A soil which has a neutral pH level, or is close to neutral, and therefore around 7;
  • A drain with a tip that has been punched rather than cut, as this creates a source for an accumulation of iron deposits;
  • Living in a region where the water table is high;
  • Lastly, living in an area with a substantial risk of flooding. 


What are the consequences of the presence of iron ochre?

The presence of iron ochre in the soil underneath a home or building will cause many undesirable effects. Firstly, the presence of iron ochre will compromise how your drain and pump operates, as the deposits of this substance will cling to the inner and outer walls of the drain, as well as the water inlet of the pump. Furthermore, iron ochre deposits will block drain openings, which will prevent proper drainage following water buildup, heavy rainfall or melting snow. As a result, water will begin to accumulate around the foundation of your home, as well as under the concrete slab.

Water may seep into the house by way of the foundation walls and will appear as a reddish-colour deposit with a sulphur-like smell. It's also worth noting that iron ochre can block your storm sewer line, as well as the water catchment area.

Another common cause of iron ochre is having very high humidity in your home. This will be visible by the appearance of mould and condensation on your windows, and moreover, traces of efflorescence can appear in the bottom of concrete walls.   


Inspect before buying or selling a house

Before purchasing a house which has already been built, be sure to ask for an analysis to detect the presence of iron ochre. This will help to avoid the unpleasant surprise of having to undertake expensive work to deal with it. A soil test can be completed by coring and this will offer indications on the pH level, on the ground composition as well as any changes the groundwater will experiment during the year. This test generally costs around $1000.

If the results test positive, it may be possible for you to negotiate the price of your future house. Furthermore, the assessment will be helpful to measure the extent of drainage clogging, which will lead to maintenance or replacement where necessary.

If you decide to sell your property, an assessment is also required.This will give you the upper hand if the presence of iron ochre is detected, as you will avoid any legal action from new owners. It's important to remember that the issue is not so much the presence of iron ochre itself, but instead the damage it can cause to a property or home in the long run.


7 ways to minimize the negative effects of iron ochre

Boue sortant d'un tuyau_Soumission Rénovation

Source: Pixabay

Of course, after reading the consequences of iron ochre, one would instinctively ask: is there a method of prevention for this substance? Unfortunately, the Régie du bâtiment du Québec confirms that it's impossible to avoid the appearance of iron ochre. However, it only takes a few moments to minimize the consequences of its presence.


Raise the slab above the water level

The purpose of the assessment we mentioned earlier is not to give up on the construction project you’ve already undertaken, but instead, to take measures to avoid the negative effects that iron ochre causes. Considering the specifics inherent in each iron ochre case, your contractor may decide to raise the slab above the water table before construction begins. This will help to avoid water infiltration as well as complications related to drainage obstruction. Again, it's worth noting that it only takes a few years for obstruction to occur if the appropriate preventative measures are not taken accordingly.


Change your home's drainage system or location 

To maximize drainage of the surrounding land as well as limit the accumulation of deposits inside the drain, your contractor may decide to change the intended location of your home's drainage system and its openings, as well as their size. A model which is less favourable to buildup, and as well as larger in size, may be installed inplace of your old one.

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Also, some contractors may opt for the installation of a stack chimney to easily reach the drainage system, allowing it to be cleaned correctly. Further, cleaning chimneys can be installed to allow for the removal of iron ochre residue, and thus, to avoid plugging the drain. Modifications can be made to the type of granular fill used during the drain installation.


Bactericidal and chemicals treatments 

Another way to deal with iron ochre is to opt for bactericidal and chemical treatments. These treatments will directly affect the elimination of the Ferro-bacterium present in the soil while controlling the pH of the soil. Nevertheless, it's important to remember that this is a costly treatment, and it will have to be completed once a year. In addition, the products used in this treatment are harmful to the environment, and, as a result,  can have a direct affect by contaminating the water table.


Case the inside of your foundation 

Another measure one can take against iron ochre is to case the inside of the foundation. This option is known for having a high success rate. The interior casing is aimed at dealing with high humidity levels on the interior walls of underground or semi-buried foundations due to the frequent use of cement as well as a water-repellent coating. However, like the previous treatment,  this is an expensive project.


Structural work

You can also decide to move up the entire structure of your home, including the foundation, drainage system and the concrete slab. This will help to keep it away from the surface of the land and limit the risk of flooding. 


Install a geotextile membrane

Moreover, the location of the geotextile membrane could be adapted based on the presence of iron ochre. Further, impermeable membranes can be installed around the walls of your foundation following the application of a bitumen coating. However, this type of work is expensive and will require an investment of between $10,000 and $15,000. 


Change the slope of the land

The modification of the slope of your property could be the key to avoid any damage due to the presence of iron ochre. It's mainly a question of preventing water from reahcing the land that surrounds the foundation of your home.


Is iron ochre a contaminant?


Source: WikimediaCommons

In the case of a new home, your warranty may exclude damage that has been caused by soil contamination by way of iron ochre. This makes it imperative to use the expertise of a professional to detect the presence of iron ochre in the soil. Some homeowners, as well as new buyers, have defended their case in court by arguing that it is inaccurate to consider ferrous ochre (the other name of iron ochre) a contaminant. This is because when the soil is affected by iron ochre, humans are unable to intervene.

However, this is simply one interpretation, as the Quebec Association of Builders and Housing (APCHQ) would argue the contrary position (based on section 29 of the regulations.) The Régie du bâtiment du Québec has ruled that “this is a situation covered by the guarantee plan in the case of new construction.” Continuing this idea, they argued that “it’s not a contaminant problem, it’s a design problem.”

However, many consumers have succeeded in winning their court case, and have had the necessary work to eliminate hazards as well as the consequences of iron ochre covered by the guarantee plan, including the lifting or casing of their foundation. The Association of Consumers for Quality in Construction has also intervened to encourage the amendment of this regulation in support of consumers affected by the presence of iron ochre, deploring APCHQ’s position on the subject.

However, the decisions regarding this subject may vary based on the evidence submitted. Indeed, you must be able to prove that damage has been suffered. In this regard, the Canadian Center for Commercial Arbitration asserts that “arbitral jurisprudence usually requires foundations to be built in the groundwater to declare that an iron ochre problem constituted a major flaw.”

Some are even challenging the fact that houses can be built on iron ochre contaminated land, as there is no regulation to prevent this situation. This is a chapter to follow, as the regulation to this effect has yet to be changed. 

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Last modified 2023-08-10

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Get Quality and a Stylish Design with Glass Tile

Glass tiles aren’t only a great wall tiling choice for wet areas, but they’re also an ideal flooring. Nowadays, such tiles are solid, aesthetic, and eco-friendly, and are an increasingly significant part of our interior quarters. If you’re still on the fence about using glass, uncover the qualities that have made it so triumphant. The Benefits of Clear Glass Tile Source: Canva Glass tiles make for a very aesthetically pleasing wall treatment or flooring that can be used both indoors and outdoors. This type of tile is available in an array of colours and textures, meaning it can be adapted to a plethora of interior décors. On top of its wide range of colours and patterns, glass tile account for several other advantages: Increases luminosity Strength Various shapes Several finishes Low maintenance Eco-friendly 1. Increases luminosity It all depends on how light is reflected. Glass mosaics reflect the sun’s rays, which in turn brightens the area in question but also gives it a feeling of spaciousness. As such, a glass mosaic is ideal the play off the space available without having to knock down a wall. 2. Strength of glass tiles Since 2011, glass tiles have been in compliance with ANSI A137.2 standard. This standard mandates tests ensuring that the tile in question can withstand temperatures of 38°C (100°F), with the exception of interior wall tiles. Unlike ceramic tiles, glass mosaic tiles can’t withstand great temperature variations when installed outdoors. Therefore, such testing helps differentiate the various types of glass tiles to label where each specific type of glass tile can be installed. 3. Various shapes There are three basic types of glass tile: cast glass; low-temperature coated glass; fused glass. Each type has its respective characteristics. We’ll detail those of fused glass in the subsequent section devoted to finishing touches. Cast glass Cast glass is kiln-fired glass that’s poured into a mould. It can be moulded into any shape, size, or colour. Low-temperature coated glass Low-temperature coated glass is achieved by transferring a decorative coating on the back side of a clear glass sheet. From there, a wide variety of colours and patterns can be pulled off. 4. Several finishes When it comes to fused glass, a glass fusion technique is used to obtain the following finishes: smooth; textured; uniform; non-uniform. 5. Low maintenance Cleaning glass tiles is a rather straightforward process. All you need is: water; vinegar; and a soft rag. By mixing equal parts water and vinegar, you’ll be able to remove any build-up that may have settled on your glass tiles. 6. Eco-friendly courtesy of recycled glass Glass mosaic tiles are an eco-friendly material, provided they’re from recycled sources: company-issued waste; recycling centres; curbside recycling. ANSI A137.2 standard divides recycled glass tiles into 3 categories, based on their composition: Category 1: at least 25%; Category 2: at least 40%; Category 3: at least 60%. Are you looking for general contractors for your renovation project? Fill in our form to be connected to top-rated contractors! Glass Mosaic: Its Multiple Uses Source: Canva Glass mosaic is a very sought-after tiling technique that consists of assembling pieces of glass together to design colourful and complex patterns. The durable and shiny finish achieved with glass tiles allows for a variety of uses: inside, both as flooring or as wall treatments; outside, as a pool liner or terrace surface. Glass Paste Glass paste, or “pâte de verre,” is most often used to make glass mosaics. It’s a cold-casting technique that consists of moulding glass sheets. A known technique since Ancient history and rediscovered at the end of the 1800s in France, this process gives glass mosaic a texture that’s similar to that of ceramic. The tiles are then glued together to create a mosaic that can withstand the following: scratches; shocks; heat. All that, treatment-free. Bathroom or Kitchen Wall Tiles Glass mosaics are perfect for wet areas: kitchen; wet room; bathroom. The reason why is that glass tiles are super easy to clean. Whether it be grease or soap residue, simply wiping the surface with a sponge will suffice in most cases. Glass Mosaic Flooring Glass tiles used as indoor flooring are typically fused glass tiles. They can be laid on every type of rigid infrastructure, such as: cured concrete slab; cement panel (0.5-inch thick) on a plywood subfloor; double-layer plywood; mortar bed on a plywood subfloor. Prior to installation, spread a crack insulation membrane over the surface to be tiled. Large glass tiles will then be laid atop this very membrane. To prevent air bubbles from forming in the tile mortar, use as little as possible. As such, avoid following the manufacturer's recommended mortar thickness. In fact, since the tiles are see-through, air bubbles forming beneath the tiles are clearly visible once installed. How to Cut Glass Mosaic Tiles Source: Canva For clean and precise cuts, it’s best to use a glass-specific diamond blade mounted on a wet saw. Naturally, not everyone can whip out a wet saw at a moment’s notice, and purchasing such a tool runs about $120 to $500. Luckily, there’s a more artisanal method that can be used, requiring a glass-cutting knife. This cutter-like tool isn’t equipped with a metal blade but a diamond-shaped tip. With this tool handy, follow along with the steps detailed below. Step 1: Mark the tile Lay your glass tile on a flat surface. Grab a second one to use as a makeshift ruler and place it where you want to make the cut. Run the glass-cutting knife’s diamond tip along the tile to mark it. To effectively mark the tile, avoid pushing down on the tool too hard, or not pushing down hard enough. Step 2: Snap the glass tile To snap the glass tile, you’ll need to use something to lift up one side of the tile where it was marked. It could be a piece of cloth or neoprene foam. The only thing left to do is to push down the glass tile’s edge to break it along the guideline. Once the cloth or neoprene is in place, simply push down on the edge to break up the tile. Step 3: Use running pliers However, if you only need to cut a small section of your tile, rather than cutting it in half, you risk having a hard time doing so using the cloth or neoprene method. To successfully cut a small section of a glass tile, you can use running pliers to snap off a small section of the tile. Some are used much like straightforward pliers, others like grip pliers, but both are easy to use. A Few Examples of Glass Tile Prices Source: Canva Given that glass tiles basically come in every shape and size, they can mimic pebbles, hexagons, or bricks. The cost of the following creations are as follows: Random shape and size mosaic: $11.50/sq.ft.; Hexagon mosaic: $16/sq.ft; Brick tiles: $13/sq.ft. To cover an entire wall with recycled tiles, budget about $38/sq.ft.

5 min read 09 Aug 2023

Translucent Concrete: When Innovation Meets Nature

Concrete is one of the most common construction materials on the planet. Up until the end of the 1900s, it was bestowed with numerous qualities, but none were that of luminosity… Well, consider it done! Since the dawn of the new millennium, this solid grey mass stuns with light-filled shadows. In fact, the arrival of translucent concrete, a robust and versatile material, marks the beginning of a new era. Once again, it revolutionizes the architecture and construction industries with its somewhat incredible light effects that are rather dazzling. And, let’s not forget that this type of concrete retains the valuable properties of standard concrete. It was first exclusively used when building cutting-edge hotel and tourism facilities, but little by little, it’s increasingly used across the industry. And despite its steep price tag, the residential sector sees grounds for innovation. Without further ado, let's shed some light on translucent concrete. The Definition of Translucent Concrete Source: Canva Translucent concrete—or light-transmitting concrete—was invented in 2001 by a Hungarian architect, and possesses optical fibre properties that aren’t readily visible to the naked eye. These fibres arranged perfectly parallel to one another, attract and transmit natural or artificial light across pre-fabricated concrete panels. This interplay of light and shadow is reminiscent of the shoji concept unique to traditional Japanese architecture. However, the translucent sheet of washi is replaced by the solidity of concrete. With the quick-evolving nature of technology, the latest process currently incorporates optical fibres that guide light emitted by an LED source, to then transmit it to the outer surface of a building. Software-activated and controlled, LEDs make for great light shows, from displaying static elements to conceiving colour schemes and animated images. As such, in broad daylight, building structures channel that of any standard concrete or stone façade. However, once night falls, and backlighting kicks in, the siding comes to life with a dazzling display. Concrete, which was once a simple mixture that included cement, water, and aggregates, bedazzled itself into a literal artistic gem, igniting the creative mind. What are the properties of translucent concrete? As of now, translucent concrete is being used in building the façades of exceptionally avant-garde buildings or as interior wall treatments for high-end constructions. With dynamic lighting breathing life into silhouettes, using translucent concrete in a shower for example may be an interesting way to benefit from this unique technology without so much as paying through the roof. (The price of translucent concrete can easily be 5 times that of standard concrete.) Transparent concrete allows light to filter through, making for brightly lit interiors. As such, there no longer is a need to worry about window placement or positioning or which direction a particular room is facing. What’s more, it allows natural light to stream in, while blocking UV rays. Based solely on aesthetics, it’s important to highlight that the incorporated optical fibres won’t result in any particular constraints. The material benefits from all the much sought-after properties of standard concrete—solid and durable. It’s definitely a technology that suits the masses. However, keep in mind that translucent concrete is an expensive construction material. Aside from the list above-mentioned regarding its uses, interior design architects often employ it in the making of stairs, guardrails, countertops, and other strictly decorative features. We’re ready to bet that the success of translucent concrete will drive major breakthroughs over the next few years, perhaps making it more accessible. Are you looking for a general contractor for your renovation project? Fill in our form to be connected with top-rated contractors! How is translucent concrete made? Source: Canva Throughout the years, two processes have made translucent concrete attainable. The first method consists of changing the formula for concrete in terms of binders and aggregates. The material becomes translucent when glass pieces are added or resin is injected into the cementitious matrix, while still retaining a sufficient strength. The second technology features optical fibres embedded in the matrix allowing light to shine through. Using simple electrical systems, the light intensity can be controlled, much like the walls’ colour rendering. Composition and materials Translucent concrete is retailed as custom, pre-fabricated panels (of various shapes and sizes), or as concrete construction blocks. The polymer-based process can transmit up to 90% light, which results in as much as 20% translucency, while still retaining the material’s strength. Translucent concrete is often used without traditional rebar. In cases where reinforcement is necessary, plastic rebar can serve as a viable substitute to steel rebar, ensuring the distinctive properties of translucent concrete remain intact. When translucent concrete contains polymer, the binder (cement) is partially replaced by a transparent polymer. This technique ensures the translucency of the material from all angles. Translucent concrete is typically neutral in colour (white, light or dark grey), but its colour can be altered upon request. It also boasts a wide range of colours, courtesy of a set of LED bulbs. Benefits of Translucent Concrete In the making of translucent concrete, mixing in transparent compounds solely account for a mere percentage of its overall composition. As a result, it benefits from all the same properties as traditional concrete. Concrete is resilient and durable—it’s basically fire-, fungus-, and insect-proof, and is resistant to physical impacts. It’s also highly resistant to adverse weather conditions and temperature fluctuations. Lastly, it’s thermally inert and has a high porosity. Translucent concrete not only harnesses the above-mentioned properties but also introduces an unprecedented level of luminosity. It’s contemporary, unique, and distinctive—transforming structures and buildings through visually stunning light shows. In broad daylight, it brightens up rooms while effectively blocking UV rays. As such, natural light replaces artificial lighting, thus limiting energy consumption. Last but certainly not least, translucent concrete is recyclable.

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