While regular home maintenance may be easy to neglect or forget, monitoring your home for signs that repairs are needed could save you headaches and money in the long run.
“My personal opinion is people should always be paying attention and putting work in all the time,” said Mike Becker, an Airdrie-based home inspector and franchise owner with Pillar to Post Home Inspectors. “The home is a pretty important thing; for almost everybody, it’s your largest investment.”
Becker recommends spending time walking through your property – both inside and out – to scout out potential issues that may require attention.The first thing to focus on is drainage. Becker said many people landscape once and then forget about it, but as the home settles the direction water flows can change. A sinking driveway or sidewalks that have cracked or shifted are a good indicator of potential drainage problems. Water moving towards the house is a big concern, and grading should be maintained to ensure the moisture is moving away from the home.
“Water towards the house can always result in moisture penetration in through the basement,” Becker said.
The next place to keep an eye on is the exterior of the house – siding and anything attached to the house like a deck or balcony. Becker said, when it comes to the house’s exterior, the priority is preventing moisture from entering the structure. If you see holes or deterioration in your siding or pieces of siding that are starting to come off, it is vital to seal or replace it.
“Especially the vinyl siding these days, if one piece comes off, the next thing you know, the whole wall comes off,” he said.
The lifespan of siding can vary because of Airdrie’s susceptibility to hail storms. Generally, he said, well-maintained siding should last at least 20 years.
Caulking is another area that needs to be monitored. According to Becker, it typically lasts only three to five years.The roof is also crucial to maintain, he said, as it “basically protects everything below it.” The majority of shingles have a lifespan of 15 years, but that also may depend on the weather.
Inside the house, Becker said the attic is an oft-neglected area and should be cold, dry and well ventilated. There should also be a vapour barrier installed underneath the insulation.
“The biggest problem I see – you especially see it during cold weather – is when air from the living area gets into the attic, it creates moisture because that warm air is touching the cold air,” he said. “Just like having a beer bottle sitting on a hot, warm day, it creates condensation.”
One clear indication that air is getting into the attic from the house are spots appearing on the second-floor ceiling. This should be immediately addressed, Becker said, because it can lead to mould that can filter through the rest of the house.Moving to the basement, he said the electrical system should be regularly inspected. If an electric receptacle is wired incorrectly, it can become a fire hazard. Problems with electricity usually show up as hot spots on the breaker, Becker said, and homeowners can check by placing a hand over the distribution panel.
“If something feels unusually hot – in other words, you might not even be able to touch it – call an electrician, because something is going on in there that an electrician should address,” he said.
Furnaces are another area that can be a hard hit to a homeowner’s pocketbook. Becker said to pay attention to how the furnace is heating the home.“There’s something that happens a lot with older thermostats, is it’ll be short cycling…they’re not measuring the temperature correctly in the house, so the furnace comes on and off very quickly,” he said.
Regular, professional maintenance can ensure a longer lifespan. Changing the filter every three months, for most filters, and scheduling duct and furnace cleanings are also helpful, he said.
“Regardless of the furnace – high-efficiency, mid-efficiency – look at the furnace, open up the front of it and look at it at least once a year, usually before the heating season starts,” Becker said. “Take a picture of it and compare it to the one that you had the year before.”
He said to pay particular attention to water stains as these could indicate a leaking drip line, which would require contacting a professional immediately to have the problem remedied.
When it comes to plumbing, homeowners should check for leaks under sinks or on any exposed pipes. Becker said water heaters usually have a 10- to 15-year life, and keeping them at the recommended heating level can help prolong effectiveness.Structural issues can be harder to diagnose, Becker said, but indicators that the house has shifted can include cracks in the walls or doors that don’t open properly. Cracks on the foundation outside may also point to structural concerns.
Ignoring problems with your house could lead to costly repairs that might have been avoided had they been addressed sooner. Some issues may even result in the home being unsafe to inhabit. Becker said, in many cases, issues can go unattended for a long time without consequence, but once it goes, it goes quickly.