“It's best to be proactive rather than reactive,” says Blaine Swan, RHI, president of the Canadian Association of Home & Property Inspectors (CAHPI). “Being prepared will help protect your home against the elements — including moisture ingress, which can cause the most damage — as well as reducing heat loss,” he explains. “Even if you need to hire professional help and perhaps borrow money for bigger fixes, like a new roof, it is good protection for your investment.”

And with fall and winter bringing wetter, colder and potentially severe weather, now is the time to ensure you're prepared. Here's how.

Get outside: your home's exterior

Check your roof. “Your roof is your home's primary line of defence to keep the elements out,” says Blaine Swan. “Missing or loose shingles should be repaired or replaced. Exposed fasteners should be sealed, as well as areas around skylights and your chimney. If your roof is at or beyond its life expectancy, then it's putting your home at risk. Remember to be pro-active.”
Expert tip: If an addition was added to your home, pay close attention to where the roofs come together. Snow, ice and moisture can accumulate there and find their way into your home.

Ensure your eaves stay clear of ice dams. “Your eaves should be cleaned annually,” he advises. “You want to ensure they're undamaged and clear of any debris — even if you have leaf guards.”

Redirect your downspout. Downspouts should direct water away from your home's foundation. If they're damaged, too close, or not sloping properly, get them repaired. Also check that your neighbour's downspouts aren't sending water towards your home.
Expert tip: Check with your municipality for any bylaws regarding downspouts being re-directed to municipal infrastructure.

Caulk your windows, doors and external vents. Seal any areas that may allow moisture or cold air into your home. “Most homeowners can make these maintenance repairs themselves,” he says.

Correct any negative grading. If the ground around your home slopes towards it, then water will flow to its foundation. And that's not good. “If you can't correct the slope, then put a drainage system in place, like a swale or French drain,” advises Mr. Swan. “This beats basement water-proofing systems, which are expensive.”

Don't forget your driveway. “Check your driveway for any winter navigation risks. If it's too steep or prone to ice accumulation, you may be sliding out into traffic.” Before winter hits, stock up on salt, sand or a de-icer product. If that doesn't work, consider having your driveway repaired by a professional.

Disconnect the hose from exterior taps. “If you don't have a frost-free tap for your garden hose, consider upgrading,” he says.

Inside tips: keep your home cozy

Get annual maintenance inspections completed. “Annual inspection and maintenance is required for furnaces, boilers, and heat recovery ventilators,” explains Blaine Swan. “Wood-burning appliances should be checked and chimneys cleaned.”

Check your interior drainage systems — including your sump pump. Drains (like the one in your laundry room) should be clear and able to direct water outside. If you have a sump pump, ensure it's well maintained and working properly. Also note that many municipalities do not permit sump pumps to discharge into municipal waste systems.

Is your insulation preventing heat loss? “Ensure the insulation in your attic and walls meets current standards.” If it doesn't, invest in an upgrade and you'll likely save money on your monthly heating bill.

Check that ventilation ducts are clear and work properly. This includes the duct from your bathroom fan, range hood and clothes dryer. “Also ensure that backflow prevention flaps are in place for all ducts leaving your home,” he says.

Repair foundation cracks, if needed. This is important year-round, regardless of the season.

Do you need an inspection?

"Not all homeowners are comfortable doing their own maintenance inspection," says Blaine Swan. “If you are physically unable, feel you don't have the right knowledge or know-how, or simply want an expert opinion after a renovation, an experienced, qualified home inspector may be your answer. After an inspection, you'll receive a written report on conditions, with recommendations on what to do.”

You can find a Registered Home Inspector (RHI) through the CAHPI website. It can be well worth it. With a professional inspection, you can be more confident about protecting the biggest investment you'll likely make in your lifetime — your home.