Winter parkas and beef jerky in August?
August 29, 2017

Have you ever tried to get winter tires installed in the Vancouver after the first snowfall? With storm season just around the corner, you might want to think about a couple fixes about you home. Get it done before your neighbors book the only available contractor.

Winter weather means two things on the south coast, cooler temperatures and rain, lots of rain. Water is by far the most destructive force in our temperate climate. Maintenance issues break down into three categories the site, structure, and systems that help keep home warm and dry.


 Topography, water control, and vegetation are the primary influencers on how the site will affect your home.

Topography of the site is generally fixed and most homes owners will not be dealing with this as a maintenance concern unless an issue arises. That said it is a very good idea to understand how the slope of a site may affect your home. Ideally, the ground around the home will slope away from the foundation. Be careful porous soils may give you the false impression of correct slope. The underlying layers will affect which way water the water travels. Where it slope towards the foundation, you are more likely to have moisture entry issues. With steeper slopes, soil erosion, and movement are another area of concern.

Surface and ground water are your next concerns. Gutters, downspouts, underground drains and catch basins are your primary defenses. Gutters capture the water running off the roofs and decks funneling it into downspouts, which either divert the water to underground drains or spill it onto the ground; from there the underground drains carry the water away from the home or into municipal sewer or storm drains.

Vegetation can hold moisture to the home, act as pathways for pests, and cause other damage. Remember fall brings with it cold and wet weather, humans are not the only creatures looking for a warm dry place for the winter. Larger tree may also cause substantial damage to a home or power loss. Branches can wear roofing, drop debris, or fall cutting power or causing damage. Should the whole tree ever come down…


  • Monitor water patterns due to slope
  • Clear gutters of clogging debris
  • Check for strong connections at gutter seams and mounting points
  • Monitor gutters during rainy periods for leaks
  • Repair damaged gutters
  • Clear downspouts of clogging debris
  • Secure any loose downspout sections
  • Extend downspouts to drain into lower gutters instead of onto roofing materials
  • Extend downspouts away from your foundation with splash blocks or extensions
  • Downspouts that spill onto walkways, driveways, and patios may cause icy winter conditions
  • Catch basins need monitoring for clogging debris
  • Outflow pipes from catch basins should be fitted with an elbow or T-fitting to limit clogging debris from entering the pipe
  • Periodic inspection and cleaning of your underground foundation drains is required to assure performance and help avoid wet basements.
  • Trim back plants and shrubbery at least 12 inches from the home
  • Monitor tree growth and condition to help avoid damage to the home.


Roofing, exterior cladding, doors, windows, and a good foundation makes up most of your defense from winter conditions.

Roof not only sheds water in many instances it also helps the walls below from damaging moisture. If nothing else have, your roof checked before heading into the winter season. There is nothing like looking up and seeing a dark yellowish stain creeping across you ceiling. If you are able to inspect the roof yourself safely great otherwise call a professional. For the most part roofing materials should appear uniform. If something looks out of place there is likely something wrong and repairs are probably necessary. These may include openings at seams or severe granular loss on a flat roof and on a sloped roof; deformed, missing, ripped or lifting shingles are all good reasons to get a roofer in for repairs. Be aware on older roofs many roofing contractors will likely want to replace the whole roof rather than doing some smaller repairs that will get your through the next couple years.

On the roof, there also typically many flashing that help deflect water over and around roofing penetrations like; skylights, plumbing boots, exhaust vents, roof vents, step wall flashing, and electrical boots.  These penetrations are often the cause of many water entry headaches and careful inspection for deterioration is required especially on older roofs.

Siding is another integral part of the envelope protecting you from driving rain, cold temperatures, and pests. Avoid any deterioration that lets moisture in. Peeling, cracked, or bubbling paint needs attention. Accompanying painting are flexible sealants that help bridge adjacent materials to prevent moisture entry. Regularly review paint and flexible sealants for deterioration, at least once a year, with recurring replacement approximately every ten years. All voids and cracks need repairs. This helps keep both moisture and pests from entering the home.

Poorly weather-stripped doors and windows will uncomfortable drafts increasing your heating bill.

With possible slippery conditions around the corner handrails, guardrails, and stairs also need attention. Wooden steps can become slippery without traction strips and will the handrail hold you if you feel.

Most homeowners pay very little attention to their foundation until there is an issue. Periodically doing a lap of the exterior of the home checking for concrete cracks is a good idea. Your primary concern is continue movement and leaks. If you see a crack, you may want to draw permanent line across it and record the width at that point. Check to see if there is any movement through the seasons. In addition, look at the interior wall on the other side of the crack is the any discolouration, or smell that may signify moisture entry.


  • Have the roof material and flashing inspected for deterioration
  • Checked for gaps, voids, cracks and paint or material deterioration on the siding
  • Are the flexible sealants holding up around the windows, doors, trim, and utility penetrations
  • Are there gaps around the windows and doors that allow drafts
  • Are your stairs safe
  • Does your foundation have new cracks that may suggest building movement


Everything else added to the structure of the home are essentially the systems. These provide heat, water, electricity, ventilation, remove waste, and provide safety.

Foremost in everyone’s minds heading into winter is do I have heat. That’s a great place to start but you should also be considering is that heating source safe or could it be more efficient. There are many different types of heating sources used in the Lower Mainland with the primary types being electric baseboards, forced air natural gas furnace, natural gas boiler, and heat pumps. Each of these have their own special needs.

Electric baseboards are simple. They either seem to work or not and replacement is relatively inexpensive should one fail. Be sure it is the baseboard and not the thermostat controlling it that has failed. Beyond that avoid using plugs above baseboards as the heat can deterioration the plastic cords creating dangerous conditions. If it can do that to electrical imagine what it can do to clothing, linens, or furniture that is too close. Generally, combustible objects should be at least eight inches above or three inches in front of electric baseboard heaters.

Natural gas furnaces and boilers need to burn fuel and require lots of air to do that. Sometimes the air comes from the environment around the appliance but more likely than not these days, it comes from a vent or pipe to the exterior. Make sure you do not smother your natural gas burning appliances because they may just smother you. Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas byproduct of burning fuel. Get your fuel-burning appliance inspected yearly it might just save your life. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms connected to the electrical system with backup batteries on each level of the home are money well spent on your family’s safety.

Change the filter in your furnace as often as required to keep them clean and the furnace operating efficiently. Avoid placing furniture over heat registers. Make sure there are no vents opening into the garage, this could also allow carbon monoxide into the home. Vents that go through unheated areas require insulation to improve efficiency and all accessible joints sealed to help restrict flow loss.

In floor radiant heating is slightly more difficult to check if it working. Thermal image cameras can be very effective at type of investigation. Many professionals carry these now but a thermometer can also be used to spot check heated floors.

While most fireplaces are simply there for cosmetic reasons, some have fan units to produce more heat. Whether natural gas or wood burning carbon monoxide exhaust entry to the home is always a concern. Have your fireplaces inspected annually to assure they are operating safely. The older the unit the more care need to be taken

Many forget to think about a home’s water heading into the winter, which can be a mistake. While most years Vancouver winters are tame, lately we have been getting cold snaps that can freeze pipes or more appropriately freeze the water in them. This will stop the flow of water but it can also cause the pipes to fracture leading to flooding especially as the pipes thaw. Coming home from work to a flooded basement is never a good thing.

  • Have your natural gas burning appliances serviced annually
  • Have your fireplaces service by professionals
  • Replace filters regularly
  • Insulates pipes and vents through unheated areas
  • Make sure smoke are present and working in your home
  • If you have fuel burning appliances use carbon monoxide sensors
  • Know and respect combustible clearances for all heating fixtures

The last thing you need to be ready for is 72 hours without heat or electricity. That is right three days without power or heat.  Do you have a plan…

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