BRITISH COLUMBIA

Doing fall maintenance on the house could save big bucks and headaches later

10/09/2014 03:19 EDT | Updated 12/09/2014 05:59 EST
VICTORIA - Spending time and money in the fall on home maintenance means homeowners avoid costly failures due to neglect, says a Victoria expert.

Chris Strong, a builder and owner of Strong Properties Inc., says the main reason to check important home systems, like drainage, during the fall is to avoid spending tens of thousands of dollars down the road.

"When you're talking about maintenance it is fairly cost effective," says Strong. "If you're talking about getting your drains looked at with a camera and cleaned, it could cost around $1,200. But if you get a block in the winter months and you end up with a flood, it could not only cause serious damage to your house, but also cost much more to repair."

Particularly in climates that get a lot of rain and wind, Strong recommends cleaning the gutters, downspouts and perimeter drains so that falling rain can flow freely away from the home.

Excess moisture from rain and snow can also lead to mould and rot if a homeowner fails to maintain painting, sealing and caulking, says Strong.

While keeping up a home's systems is important, Strong suggests homeowners also clean up and remove excess vegetation around their property.

"Keeping vegetation off the house is important to keep debris off the roof, which can cause blockages in the drainage and roof," says Strong. "In heavy winds and bad weather, trees that are at risk to your home because of disease or structural damage could fall onto a home. Removing large overhanging tree branches also prevents rodents from getting in a house."

Strong says rats and other rodents often use branches and tree limbs to gain access to a house in search of warmth and dryness in the winter.

Fall is a good time to take on home maintenance projects before the weather turns, but it is also a good time to take care of trees and vegetation around the property, which could impact the integrity of a home.

Glenn Chernick, a municipal arborist in Moose Jaw, Sask., says the majority of his pruning is done in the fall because the leaves have fallen, which allows him to easily see where a tree's structural deficiencies and disease might be.

Like Strong, Chernick says once the leaves are off the trees and bushes, a homeowner should take the time to rake those on the ground and clear any from gutters.

Skilled pruning along with basic care is important for a tree's health.

"One bit of tree-related work that is really important to do is, if you have ... shallow-rooted trees like birch trees, you want to make sure they get a really good watering after they drop all their leaves," he says.

Chernick recommends homeowners contact a certified arborist to take a look at any trees that are of concern or that they are considering pruning.

"I've seen a lot of people who think they know what they are doing," says Chernick. "For example I've seen people cut the top off a tree so it isn't as high. Usually that is a bad idea because where it is topped it introduces a whole bunch of bacterial pathogens into the tree and ends up killing it.

"You could have a tree that could live 200 or 300 years, but once it is topped you're lucky if you get another 20 years out of it."