Winter Maintenance Tips

Winter can be a particularly tough season for a home. And since wind, snow and ice don’t distinguish between old or new houses, avoid the trap of thinking that your new home is somehow exempt from needing regular maintenance, especially from a harsh Ontario winter.

All new homes in Ontario come with a builders’ warranty that lasts up to seven years from the date of possession.  That warranty is guaranteed by Tarion. To help protect your warranty rights, it is important to conduct regular home maintenance year-round. If a maintenance routine is not followed, regular wear and tear on your home can cause damage that may not be covered by your warranty.

One big consideration in winter is fluctuating temperatures that can sometimes lead to a build-up of roof ice – called ice damming – as well as potentially dangerous icicles. This can occur when the roof surface is warm enough to melt the snow, but the surrounding air temperature is cold enough to re-freeze the melted water – the result is ice formations on roofs (watch our video on ice damming).

Areas to observe are roof valleys, dormers, skylights and roof over-hangs.  Regular freeze and thaw cycles, especially in these areas, can eventually lead to water seeping inside the home. Where it can be done safely, clearing roof ice and snow can help reduce the likelihood of future water leaks.

Other important outdoor maintenance tasks include: ensuring that all air intakes, exhausts and meters are clear of snow; cleaning gutters and washing out all debris; and turning off and draining exterior hoses and pipes.

Inside your home, managing moisture is particularly important during the winter months (watch our video on controlling moisture).

Today’s new energy-efficient homes are built to better seal out the elements. However, this can lead to excess moisture in your home if water does penetrate, and if ignored, could cause considerable damage to your new home and even promote unhealthy indoor air quality.

In fact, too much or too little moisture can result in damage that may not be covered by the statutory warranty.

A key indicator of a healthy indoor environment is the humidity level in your home, and you can check this by using a hygrometer. The healthy range during the winter is 30 to 45 per cent humidity.

If you have low humidity in your home, your interior finishes may be affected and wood products may shrink. So, if your home’s humidity levels are lower than 30 percent, installing a portable humidifier should help bring up the humidity levels.

Excess moisture, on the other hand, can be caused by simple, day-to-day tasks such as showering, cooking and doing laundry. Proper ventilation, therefore, is key to keeping your home in good condition.

Make sure that bathroom fans, kitchen range hoods and ventilators, such as heat recovery ventilators – items that are specifically installed in your new home – are in good working order to help you control moisture.

Other indoor maintenance during the winter months should include: cleaning or replacing your furnace filter on a regular basis; cleaning the heat recovery ventilator and washing or replacing the filter; and checking all caulking and weather stripping around windows and doors.

Owning a new home comes with a responsibility to manage and maintain that home. By conducting regular and proper maintenance, you will help to ensure that your statutory warranty rights are protected, and your home stays in good condition.

For a comprehensive checklist of seasonal maintenance tips, visit Maintaining Your New Home.