Home Maintenance-Canada

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CMHC

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's website has an informative section on Maintaining a Home. That section includes a useful Home Maintenance Schedule. One caveat, however, is that CMHC's suggested Home Maintenance Schedule is a one-size-fits-all list. Most of CMHC's advice is sound, but it does not cover climatic idiosyncracies in a few places.

For example, CMHC recommends turning off the pilot light for the natural gas central heating furnace in the spring and re-lighting it in the fall (autumn). This is fine in most of Canada, but in Calgary you should keep your gas furnace operating year-round. Although it happens only occasionally, Calgary's temperature can drop quite low in summer. If you were away on holiday, for example, and there was a cold snap during your absence, you probably would find that your insurance policy wouldn't cover you for water damage if your gas furnace had been off and a water pipe burst as a result. So, even in summer, your central heating thermostat should be set to, say, 10 deg C. Please note, this advice is for Calgary.

So it's a good idea to find out from established local residents if there is anything unusual about the area in which you live and if there are specific measures you need to take.

Differences between Canadian and UK houses

There are many differences between maintenance and what to look for / look out for between what you might be used to in UK houses vs Canadian houses. Here are a few key examples.


Construction

Most Canadian houses are timber framed with a basement. They may be 'faced' with brick or not. If not, there will be some form of 'siding' covering the frame and insulation, which could be timber planks, vinyl or aluminum siding. Basements and / or deep foundations are necessary in Canada as the foundations must be deeper than the depth of freezing of the soil in winter otherwise, the foundations would soon crumble! Although some houses have deep foundations, but no basement (i.e. built 'on-slab'), so don't assume there is a basement unless it is stated. Basements may be 'finished' (i.e. have drywall, skirting, ceilings etc.) or be 'unfinished'.


Roof life

In the UK, there is rarely a concept of a limited roof life. In Canada, roofing is normally manufactured 'shingle' on a roll, which is laid over an under layer, which in turn is laid on top of 3/4 inch marine ply directly on the roof joists. Other more permanent types of roofing may include metal roof tiles or sheets. The more common 'roofing on a roll' can vary in quality, but is normally considered to have a life of 20 years give or take. Make sure to ask the date the roof was last changed as if it is towards the end of it's life you may have to pay $20 - $45k to have it re-roofed.


Septic field / drilled well

In some areas, houses may not have 'city water'. Meaning that they do not have connected water or sewerage treatment. In such cases, they often have their own 'septic field' and 'drilled well'. For a drilled well, the house will also have it's own internal water treatment system. Both septic fields and water treatment systems have a limited life, often around 20 years for each. Again, another factor to look out for when buying and to consider in running costs / capital expenditure. One advantage to a house that is not on the mains system is that the plot sizes are much larger - they have to be to have the space required for the septic field while maintaining a minimum separation between the septic field and the drilled well (for obvious reasons!).


Basements

Basements may be unfinished, partially or fully finished. House details will often talk about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms 'above grade'. This means bedrooms and bathrooms on the main floor of the house and not including additional rooms like this in a finished basement. It is fairly typical to find the laundry facilities in the basement and for the basement to have a casual 'rec room' for TV while the upstairs lounge may be a more formal affair.


Heating

It is normal and fairly common for houses in Canada to have ducted hot air heating. The ducting can then also be used for cooling via a separate air-conditioning unit. Some of the new modern estate developments in Canada now have 'wet' heating with radiators and combi-boilers that you may be used to in the UK, but these are rare in pre-1990 properties. As a result, Canadian call the heating unit a 'furnace' and not a 'boiler'. Furnaces are considered to be good for 20 years or so before needing to be replaced.


Cooling

It is pretty normal in Canada to have air-conditioning as standard. The air -conditioning unit is normally located outside the house. Air conditioning units normally last for 10 - 20 years.


Hot water

Because most houses have forced hot air ducted heating, this is all the furnace does. So hot water will either come from an electric cylinder or more normally, a gas-fired water boiler. These are often rented and have a contract, although they can also be purchased outright. Something worth checking when you are looking to buy as it can be expensive to buy out a rented boiler. They are considered to have a 10 - 15 years lifespan.


Windows

In Canada, sealed unit double glazed windows are the norm. They are considered to have a 20 year life, so well worth checking how old the windows and doors are when buying.

Other links

There are more articles related to housing in the Housing-Canada section of the BE Wiki.