Vancouver is known as having one of the mildest climates in Canada, but that doesn’t mean that homeowners don’t need to worry about Mother Nature. The City of Vancouver lists several situations that homes need to be prepared for including flooding, earthquakes and wind storms.
With the large amount of precipitation that Vancouver sees each year – particularly in the winter months – homeowners need to be sure water is draining well on their property. Wind storms are the next common incidence around the city: winds can be the most powerful between October and February. The City also also advises homeowners to be prepared for earthquakes.
Here are some of the top ways you can make sure your home will withstand the weather conditions.
Vancouver Storm by 3dpete
Prepping your home against water damage
Vancouver typically gets between 1,000 and 1,500 mm of rain each year, making water damage a big concern for homeowners. However, the home inspector John Schiffer of Quality Home Inspections says there is little to worry about if regular maintenance has been done on the outside of the home.
If the outside of your building is well-maintained usually bad weather isn't so much of an issue. It is the places that aren't maintained that have problems.
Two of the major parts of the house that need to be kept up to date include the roof and windows/doors, according to Schiffer.
Schiffer advises to have the roof inspected every two to three years:
Wind can cause shingles to blow off and you would never know it until there is a rain storm. Then you get water inside. If you do regular maintenance, you can pick things like that up.
Another important way to prevent water damage to a home, according to Schiffer, is by sealing windows and doors properly.
People hardly ever check that. I always find that it is degraded or it is missing. It is what keeps water from getting into areas where your doors and windows are, or any opening in the outside wall, like a light fixture, a chimney, an electrical outlet, a dry air vent, or anything like that.
The City reminds homeowners to keep all storm drains clear of debris and to monitor water drainage on their property often. As extra precaution, residents can seal their basement walls and also install drain tiles around their homes.
Consumer Reports has looked at several types of siding including the most popular vinyl, which is low in cost and low in maintenance.
Their siding tests show that vinyl holds up well against water but is at risk for cracking, melting and burning. A little more expensive then vinyl is plastic. It is thicker and can resist impact better in cold weather.
Siding also comes in fiber cement and wood however they are both more susceptible to water damage so would not be a wise choice for a home in the lower mainland.
Paint is another important consideration for home appearance. Consumer Reports has tested several kinds and suggests using flat finish for exterior, weather-worn walls.
Schiffer says regular painting would also help a home stand up in Vancouver’s weather:
Paint in this climate for wood should be done every seven years. If you don't do that, even for a long period of time, when it rains the wood tends to weather a lot and you can get water behind the siding.
Consumer Reports also looked at what stains hold up best in harsh weather. Their tests have found that most stains need to be redone every three years, with solid stains lasting the longest. According to their tests Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Solid Deck & Siding and Behr Solid Colour Waterproofing Wood Stain were among the top.
High winds occure most often between October and February, according to the City of Vancouver. To protect your home experts recommend trimming dead or weak branches from trees and securing any loose items such as patio furniture, toys, barbecues and garbage cans.
Direct Energy also recommends examining all trees on your property often, watching for signs of decay or loose branches that can fall off in a wind storm:
Prevent decay with proper tree maintenance. Keep lawn mowers and weed trimmers from 'wounding' bark, and don't over-prune branches. Over-watering can lead to shallow root systems, which will make them less able to stand firm in high winds.
Schiffer agrees with Direct Energy, saying you should check for any dead branches, which are the sign that the tree is going to come down, and you should remove it yourself.
Definitely Fall by Kenny Louie
Most experts recommend insulation for Vancouver homes for extra protection as well as for environmental reasons. BC Hydro recommends homes over 10 years of age to be insulated:
Like a good winter coat, the right insulation in the right place gives you a warm feeling all over.
Key areas to insulate, according to the company, is the attic, basement, crawl space. They also advise homeowners to use weatherstripping on doors and windows to help against wind and water. There is a wide variety of material and methods used to put insulation in homes and BC Hydro says the main types include blanket insulation, blown-in or loose-fill insulation and rigid board insulation.
The City also recommends homes in the Vancouver area be prepared for earthquakes. They advise that homeowners may want to seek the advice of a professional engineer to examine their structure.
The City website also advises bolting down homes, water heaters and any gas appliances to prevent damage.
A test done by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has shown that certain materials have been better able to stand up to earthquakes.
Which materials hold-up the best against earthquakes?
CMHC states that non-structural building components, such as stucco cladding and drywall, can have a major influence on earthquake performance.
They also advise using staples with panels to secure the building:
The earthquake performance of panels with staple lath fasteners was found to be superior to that of panels with nail fasteners.
Those with longer staples also proved to have more strength than shorter staples.
The study also showed that rainscreen stucco wall systems have been helpful in reducing moisture damage.
In 2012 BC changed their Building Code to ensure more safety with regards to seismic activity. In new regulations homes are now expected to be built with panels:
Several of these braced wall panels installed at key locations from the foundation to the roof structure, and located on all exterior walls of the house, result in a very strong structure.
Snowy, Stormy Vancouver by Richard Winchell
Protect your pipes
Expert home builder, Mike Holmes advises pipes to be wrapped and that homeowners drain exterior plumbing lines to prevent frozen pipes.
To prevent freezing, Milani Plumbing recommends wrapping pipes in:
- foam pipe insulation
- self-adhesive insulating tape
It only takes one frozen pipe to ignite the freezing process on the nearby ones! If pipes have already frozen call in a professional rather than trying to fix it on your own.
According to RB Plumbing pipes can freeze even in mild Vancouver weather:
Building codes keep interior pipes away from outside walls where they would be susceptible to freezing.
Experts say that pipes can freeze at -6° Celsius. Some have advised letting water drip a little through the pipes to relieve the pressure and avoid freezing:
Opening a faucet will provide relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and the ice blockage when freezing occurs.
Don't forget to remove any hoses that are hooked up in the back yard. If you are planning to be away for a period of time, be sure to drain the water.
Better Safe Than Sorry
Despite the unpredictability of Mother Nature there are several things that homeowners can do to ensure their homes stay safe an damage-free. The City of Vancouver offers advice and services to homeowners to help prepare their homes for the most common environment concerns in the lower mainland. By being proactive, residents can prevent unnecessary water or wind damage, and can also take steps to ensure their homes stay standing in the event of an earthquake. While we all hope that these disasters do not happen, we can be confident that with some extra care our homes will last for a long, long time.