All buildings, no matter the age, benefit from and require regular care. In fact, often the best preservation work is achieved through consistent maintenance. In that spirit, VHF has created this page to help you keep up with your building’s needs and the challenges that can arise from caring for an aging structure. Below you will find maintenance tips and tricks, advice for common problems and several resources about home / building repair.
Maintenance Week 2017 – November 22 -28
In November 2017, VHF visited several significant heritage buildings and spoke with their owners and stewards who are actively maintaining them. Watch our short video to learn how maintenance benefits a listed heritage home, the Walter and Mary Chan house in Strathcona and the iconic Marine Building. VHF would like to thank all participants for their assistance in making this video possible.
Prep your house for winter weather and join us in celebrating maintenance for older buildings. Below are 8 tips to help kickstart your winter maintenance from our expert, John Quinton.
About our Expert – John Quinton
All maintenance tips and information have been developed and reviewed with contractor John Quinton. With over 30 years of industry experience, John is well-versed in historic construction and heritage conservation practices. He is a long-standing member of VHF’s Board of Directors.
We would like to extend our thanks to John and to the other Board and staff members who have helped us illustrate important tasks for our 8 days of maintenance, allowing us to photograph them in action! We’d also like to thank Martin Knowles for all of our Maintenance Week photography.
8 days of Maintenance (click on each day to reveal details)
Day 1: Seal out the drafts for a cozy home. Weather stripping is cheap, easy and effective.
With Vancouver’s mild climate the biggest cause of a home feeling cold is drafts. Making sure your house has adequate weather stripping around doors and windows can go a long way to keeping your house warm and comfortable. Weather stripping should fit snugly and form a seal through compression – nothing should rattle. While you’re at it, inspect wooden sills and gently prod the frames to search for signs of water infiltration or deterioration – soft wood, peeling paint or failing putty. These can be more fully repaired in the spring.
-Karen, VHF Board Member, inspects the weatherstripping and wood elements of a door
Day 2: Don’t let the frost get to your pipes! Turn off and drain outside water sources to avoid freezing.
While Vancouver rarely has temperatures drop far enough to freeze pipes it does happen and this is good practice to avoid a nasty surprise and an expensive fix when it thaws. It is also a great time to learn where your main water shut-offs are and ensure they are labelled correctly. If something starts leaking, you will want to know which one to turn in a hurry. Your exterior water source shut-off is usually next to your main shut-off valve, and before the pressure valve that regulates water pressure for the interior house system.
-Judith, VHF Executive Director, drains exterior water sources
Day 3: Show your heating and hot water systems some love with regular maintenance and give your furnace an early holiday gift of a new filter.
Maintaining the space and water heating appliances in your home is a really important annual task. A well-maintained system can save you money, last longer and do a better job. Replacing the filter in your furnace is a quick inexpensive task that can make a big difference to its performance. Furnaces, boilers and tankless hot water systems all benefit from a professional annual service to keep them running at peak efficiency. This goes for new systems as well!
– Karen, VHF Board Member, changing the air filter on a heating system
Day 4: Pay your attic a visit and check for damp, drafts and signs of any unwanted housemates.
Access your attic and check for damp and drafts. Ensure soffit ventilation is not obstructed and is properly sealed to prevent critters from entering. Inspect the underside of your roof during daylight hours and with a flashlight handy – look for holes, cracks and any signs of water getting in. Problems can often be patched temporarily until they can be properly repaired in the spring. While you’re in the attic, check the insulation level; if you can see the top of the joists you need more.
Day 5: Start at the top! Inspect your roof and chimney for signs of trouble.
From street level and using binoculars, inspect your roof for holes, cracks, slipped shingles or missing flashing. Be sure to check the chimney and any valleys in your roofline for signs of water damage such as obvious wet spots, bubbling stucco on the chimney, missing bricks or mortar, and loose or damaged flashing. You will want to address any issues immediately. If moss is gathering on your roof, do not power wash! It can shorten the roof’s life. If your roof is covered with debris you can have it cleaned using a hose from the peak downward to the gutters to remove this debris and leaves. If you have your gutters professionally cleaned the same company can usually do the roof cleaning as well. To deter moss growth, have a professional roofer replace or install a zinc strip to the roof peak.
-David, VHF Chair of the Board, inspects the roof using binoculars
Day 6: Make sure water is going where you want it to and clear out all that glorious Vancouver mud and debris from drainage systems.
Make the most of a rainy day to look for any overflowing gutters and ensure downspouts are draining away from the house and are free of debris and leaves. If you have noticed drainage issues on the property, it may be time to get your perimeter drainage system professionally inspected. Drains can become clogged with leaves, broken or crushed pipes, tree roots or mud. The cost of having your drainage serviced is far less than repairing a flooded basement! To help prevent clogging, trim vegetation away from drains, and clear gutters and downspouts of leaves regularly.
-Judith, VHF Executive Director, assesses a failing downspout
Day 7: Don’t let moisture get a foothold – it can turn a small problem into a big one. Spot cracks in masonry and paving, and keep out the water and frost.
Although Vancouver does not experience extreme freezing and thawing, it is still a good idea to repair cracks and lost mortar in paving and masonry – so bigger problems don’t set in and moisture is kept out! Masonry will eventually need repointing. Pavement can shift and crack, causing pooling water near the home. The ground around you house should always slope away from house walls. Cracks in foundation walls should be assessed and dealt with in consultation with a structural engineer.
Day 8: Get that gunk out of the gutter! Sparkling gutters are key to keeping water where it should be.
Use proper safety equipment to remove leaves and debris from gutters. Ensure gutters are sloping correctly and have not pulled away from the facia. There should be enough downspouts to handle heavy rainfall. Endcaps should be properly caulked and sealed to prevent water damage to siding. If you notice peeling paint or bubbling stucco, chances are water is not draining away properly and should be further investigated.
-David, VHF Chair of the Board, cleans debris out of the gutters