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About The House

Four types of maintenance

Most people think that home maintenance is only about fixing broken things, but there’s a whole lot more to maintaining a property than meets the eye. Most of the maintenance that I see on home inspections is a result of having to fix something or wanting to. Every home owner should know about the primary types of home maintenance listed below.


1. Preventative Maintenance

This maintenance is focused on preserving the physical integrity and value of the property. By following a preventative maintenance routine you can reduce corrective maintenance costs.

Preventative maintenance consists of regular maintenance activities and routine inspections that are done to prevent problems with your building and to help prevent costly repairs in the future. It’s always cheaper to fix problems when they’re still small and preventable!


2. Routine Maintenance

This type of maintenance is all about preserving the reliable life of a component in your home. Take for example changing your furnace filter. By changing your furnace filter regularly you are preserving the physical integrity and value of the furnace. By following a preventative maintenance routine you can reduce corrective maintenance costs.

This is the most frequently done activity of all and is done by performing routine and scheduled maintenance of the property. Changing equipment filters, cleaning gutters, removing debris from roof drains, caulking, office cleaning, window cleaning and repairs, and parking lot care are just a few of the many items that require scheduled maintenance.


3. Corrective Maintenance

Corrective maintenance is undertaken when a component in the home fails and usually need to be done as soon as possible. This type of maintenance includes replacing a broken air conditioning unit, fixing a dripping faucet, unclogging drains, replacing light bulbs, or repairing a non-functioning toilet.


4. Deferred Maintenance

Unfortunately, this is a common finding during home inspections. Deferred maintenance is when things aren’t fixed but should be. Deferred maintenance really isn’t maintenance at all, but rather the repairs, replacements, and improvements that should’ve been done but weren’t. Now they’ve become larger problems with larger repair costs. These items are oftentimes the most expensive to fix and many times they could’ve been taken care of at far less expense, if they had been fixed when first noticed.


Baseboard thermostats

Most of the furnaces that I inspect during home inspections are controlled by programmable thermostats. The same cannot be said about electric baseboard heating.

Like a radiator, a baseboard heater is a type of convection heater. As it heats up, it spreads air through its metal fins, warming the air directly above and around it. As the hot air spreads out, it becomes less dense while it rises into the air. This creates a vacuum, pulling cool air towards the heater and starting the process over again. Once the convection current gets flowing, it can spread heat to the entire room.

The key to efficient baseboard heating is airflow: anything blocking the flow of air into or out of an electric baseboard heater will decrease its energy efficiency and create a potential fire hazard. Baseboard heaters work best when they are located under a window and at least 12” away from furniture or other objects on the floor. Make sure that drapes and other hanging objects are at least 12” away from the heater too. Dust and dirt can decrease the amount of heat your baseboard heaters are able to produce, while at the same time increasing how much energy they consume. Remember to clean them a couple of times a year.

The biggest advantage of electric baseboard heaters is that you can control the heat of each room independently. If your home is heated by electric baseboard heaters, those heaters probably account for nearly half of your hydro bill.

A thermostat—usually located on a nearby wall—controls the heater or heaters for each room. It turns on when the air temperature in the room falls below a set temperature, and off when the room reaches that temperature. If you want to save energy, always turn your thermostats down when you can, at night when you’re sleeping, for example, or all of the time in rooms you don’t use or when you are away.

If you want to reduce your electricity consumption it makes sense to make sure your electric baseboard heaters are working efficiently and are controlled by programmable thermostats. Most baseboard heaters are installed with manual thermostats. Each time you want to change the temperature of a room you have to do it manually. If you have to manage several rooms it is easy to forget to turn a thermostat down at night or when you are away. The answer is to switch to programmable thermostats, especially in your main living rooms. Programmable thermostats are more precise than their manual cousins and do a better job of keeping room temperature constant.

Avoid fluctuations in temperature by installing programmable thermostats, you’ll be more comfortable and you’ll save more energy.

Diamond in the rough

Looking for that diamond in the rough? We’ll it’s out there! Since homes are moving fast you’ll need the help of a professional Realtor to help you find one.

Q. My partner and I are considering buying a fixer-upper house rather than a new home. What should we look for?

A. Diamonds in the rough come in all shapes and sizes, but generally the approach is to find one that needs some TLC to make it shine again. If you can see past the aesthetics and can fix the basics then you’re ready to roll the dice.

It’s always important to know what the scope of work is and what you’re up against. Buying a fixer upper requires a budget, but if you learn how to spot an undiscovered bargain, you can turn up surprising deals even in this hot real estate market.

My Realtor friends tell me that me that more than 90% of buyers judge a home by their first impression. Sometimes their first impressions come from the internet or by just driving by. If they don’t like what they see at first sight, they don’t make an appointment for a showing. If you’re looking for a diamond in the rough, that’s not the way to go about it. You’ll have to get inside to visualize what it will look like after a few key improvements.

From a home inspector's point of view, anything about a house can be changed except for the location. You’ve heard it but it’s worth repeating, the classic tip for fixer uppers is to buy the worst house on a good street, and that is still a great strategy. The reason is that since you are buying low relative to the other homes the risk is that you won’t overpay for the home. Plus, you can take advantage of increasing the property’s value by doing basic fixes to bring the value in line with the neighbourhood.

It sounds strange, but if you’re looking for a bargain, then mess, dirt and clutter are attractive. To others, mess can turn off a buyer. What is important is the layout and the general condition of the home. Landscaping is sweat equity - large improvements can be gained with little work.

When looking at older homes, many of my clients ask about taking out interior walls to open up space. In most cases removing non-load bearing walls is all that may be needed to turn a diamond in the rough into a real gem.

There are some things that can quash buying a diamond in the rough. If you’ve been on one of my inspections you’ll know that water is the biggest enemy of any home. It’s rare when we find structural cracks in foundations. Conditions similar to these may end up as bigger and costlier fixes, but you won’t know for sure unless you get some estimates before you buy, so don’t get dismayed until you get the straight goods.

If you’re looking for a diamond in the rough then you should be wary of homes that have already gone through major upgrades. Instead, focus on homes that don’t need major work but can be dramatically improved with aesthetic touches. A true diamond in the rough usually needs some paint, trim, interior doors, flooring and cabinetry. Curb appeal is huge so expect to do some landscaping and a fresh coat of paint. If you’re ambitious and want to go a step above, then a new roof covering, a new hot water tank and furnace is always a good investment.

I am a fan of fixer-uppers. I see a lot of homes that are rich in history but short on modern conveniences. Many I see are in good shape and structurally sound, and I expect with the right buyer they turn out to be a good investment of time, money, and sweat equity.


Finished grade level

Concrete foundation walls should extend higher than the finished grade level (concrete patios, sidewalks and landscaping improvements) adjacent to the foundation wall at all points. There are industry recognized preferable minimum finishing heights to be achieved in relation to framing, cladding and siding components to protect the structure from weather related deterioration, water intrusion, “splash back” of rain water, and pest infestations. Where wood siding is installed, the generally accepted height above finished grade height is a minimum of 6 to 8 inches (152 to 203 mm) above the finished grade level. When fiber cement siding products are installed, we are looking at a 3” height above finished grade, be careful on new installs as improperly installed siding can null some manufacturers warranty’s.

In the case of this home, the majority of the concrete sidewalk is installed against the wooden exterior siding material and above the foundation wall. This can cause adverse conditions. This condition potentially allows for moisture accumulation and passive entry into the wooden structural components. Weather related deterioration was observed on the exterior siding at grade level. The internal portions of the exterior perimeter walls were concealed. In cases like this, improper grading can be an invitation to insect activity.

Grading is one of the first things that a home inspector looks for and identifying poor grading can lead to problems at the house. I know this sounds very basic, and it is, but I inspect a high percentage of houses that has poor grading at the exterior. This means that the ground slopes toward the building or allows water to pond next to the building, rather than away. The fix for improper grading is to change the landscaping, and in most cases doing it right from the beginning.

Read more About the House - Hugh Cairns articles


About the Author

When you need advice or guidance with for DIY home improvement and repairs, Hugh Cairns can help you with the answers.

Home improvements can be rewarding and turn your home a nicer comfortable place to live and increase its value. Whether you are renovating your kitchen, converting a loft, giving a room a lick of paint or making improvements to your home’s energy efficiency this column is here to guide you with some useful information and key things to remember.

Do you have a renovation question or concern? Please feel free to send Hugh your questions. Contact him through


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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