Challenges

related to temperature changes in Ottawa.

The winters in Ottawa are very cold, significantly colder than Toronto. Most of the cities in Ontario lie on the shores of Lake Ontario. The weather in these cities, accordingly, is hotter in the summer but extremely harsh in the winter.

Ottawa, by contrast, has warm humid summers and very cold, dry winters, with snow depths of 1 cm or more at least 1/3 of the year. In fact, surprisingly, Ottawa gets twice as much snow as Toronto.

Summers in Ottawa are very nice, with lots of sunshine and quite a few really hot days. It is absolutely gorgeous there in June, July, and August. The scene above is a frequent site. However the huge swings from hot to frigid cold and back create problems when it comes to keeping your home, yard, and driveway looking good.

Since Carla and I lived off campus (me in a rented house and her in an apartment nearby) our senior year, we got to see firsthand how challenging it is to keep things looking nice in the frozen tundra.

Regarding painting, my house had a lot of issues both inside and out. The walls tended to crack from the temperature and humidity changes. There were both a humidifier and a dehumidifier for use in winter and summer respectively, but that wouldn’t prevent wall and paint damage, only make it a little more comfortable.

Wall in need of paint

This is a poor picture but it is what the inside of the house mostly looked like. My landlord had the entire inside scraped repainted at one point. What a nightmare. It was not a large house but took every bit of a week to complete the job. He thought about doing it himself but decided to contract the work out to a local Ottawa painter.

I learned a lot from seeing how that progressed, and now that I own my own home in Richmond, when it needed paint I opted to hire the job out to an interior and exterior painter in Richmond Va. rather than try to tackle the job myself.

It cost a lot more than doing it myself but worked out well. I would not have wanted to spend that much time and it would have taken me twice as long due to being inexperienced.

Another challenge in Ottawa, as you might imagine is getting the building insulated properly. The building standards regarding insulation are very strict now, but many houses there are old and were not built with anywhere near the proper amount. It was the same for Carla’s apartment. She had a mini-split to help heat the small apartment but the thin layer of insulation in the walls meant the thing was always fighting cold coming through it.

The house I recently bought is also old so I had an insulation installer in Richmond Va. come out and give me a quote on doing the work. They had to blow in the new insulation into the walls which was an ordeal but the house is way warmer now. Of course the temps here are nowhere near what they are up in Ottawa.

Another huge problem I saw while in Ottawa is with concrete, both in foundations and when used on driveways and patios. Carla’s apartment complex used to have asphalt pavement in the parking lot but the asphalt really took a beating in the winter time and eventually the ground underneath would fall away and pot holes would develop. So they eventually decided to have concrete poured over the asphalt after driving across it with a steam roller to get it as compressed as was possible. They hired a local cement company to do the work.

Once this was done, cement mixers came in and poured what looked to be about 15 cm (6 inches in US parlance) of concrete, which was smoothed out with what looked like airboats; a seat with a big fan on the back that could be driven across the newly poured concrete to smooth it out. Anyway, once this was done and after two or three days to let it settle, it was painted and cars were allowed to drive on it. This all happened before Carla lived there full time (we had a number of friends that lived here that we visited often over the years). But we noticed that within a year, before Carla graduated, that there were places in the lot where the concrete started to crack. There were some noticeable issues with the parking lot by the time we left, but they had not been addressed at that point. I asked Lin recently if she had been over there in the last year or so, but she had not in quite some time. But the harsh temperature changes up there make these kinds of problems very common.

The reason I was curious is because I was thinking of having a concrete driveway poured at my house, and did not want the same thing to happen if at all possible. I did a lot of research and looking for a company that did concrete driveways and patios in Richmond, Va., and finally found a company with a good informative website and a good reputation. I learned a lot from the site and was able to get a good price on the work. They were very helpful and informative and I am thrilled to have a nice driveway, finally!