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Oct 28, 2021

15 min. read

Buying your first home is exciting. But for many, it also marks an introduction to the necessities of home maintenance. Get a head start with this need-to-know guide for practical tips, interior design advice, step-by-step instruction and other ways to protect your investment for years to come.

A man holding a ladder on top of a roof.

Must-do Maintenance

Keeping your home in good working condition can head off bigger issues down the road. There’s lots to do, but don’t get overwhelmed. A little upkeep each season goes a long way.


Stop the flow

Before winter arrives, shutoff and drain exterior faucets—even if they’re frost free. Frozen plumbing lines can burst and cause major damage. If you have an underground sprinkler system, be sure to clear it too.

Top-down view

If you have someone to spot you on a ladder, give your roof a thorough inspection. Use roof adhesive to fix any lifting shingles and metal flashing of the roof valley. Also check the caulking around protrusions such as roof vents and skylights. Uncomfortable with heights? Consult a professional inspector.

Check your vents

Lint buildup in your dryer can start a fire. Inspect the dryer vent monthly—and clear the lint trap after every use. Check the furnace vent too. If it’s blocked by ice or debris, potentially lethal carbon monoxide can accumulate inside your home.

Yard smart

Strong winds can bring down branches and even uproot unhealthy trees. Look at tree roots and trunk for signs of decay like deep cracks and missing bark. Prune dead or broken branches, especially on mature trees.

Water wise

In spring and fall, clear leaves and debris from eavestroughs to prevent clogging. Ensure downspouts extend at least two metres from your home, and that the ground slopes to lead water away from your foundation.


Filters and fans

Change furnace filters seasonally—every three months—to keep your home’s air cleaner and reduce wear and tear on furnace motors. In bathrooms, help keep your fans running well by clearing away dust from the exhaust covers. Since Manitoba has mineral-rich hard water, it’s also smart to annually descale or replace filters inside water softeners.

Under the roof

Check that the fiberglass batt or blown-in insulation in your attic has not become matted down: Compressed insulation loses its effectiveness. Ensure there’s good airflow from rafter baffles and vents to help prevent condensation buildup.

Plumb the depths

Heavy rainfall can cause flooding in unprotected basements. Make sure your sump pump is working properly; ensure it has power and the backup battery is charged. In older homes, prevent the nightmare of a sewer-line backup by having a pro install a backwater valve.

Be fire safe

Upgrade to combination smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Test them monthly, change the batteries annually and replace each unit 10 years from the date of manufacture (listed on the back or side of the alarm). Keep a fire extinguisher handy and check its charge too.

Close the caps

Check caulking and weather stripping around windows and doors—and replace if necessary. Sealing drafts helps boost the effectiveness of your HVAC system, lowering your heating and cooling costs.

Get a Smooth Seal

Proper caulking around window frames, shower stalls and baseboards can stop drafts, bugs and water damage.

Step 1

Pick your caulking: latex for interior trim and small cracks; paintable, no-shrink polyurethane for siding, windows and doors; antimicrobial silicon for kitchens and bathrooms.

Step 2

Remove old caulk with a utility knife or razor. Use a wet rag to clean out dust, debris and grease. Allow area to dry.

Step 3

Cut caulking tube nozzle at a 45-degree angle and load into good-quality caulking gun.

Step 4

Apply pressure to get a bead flowing. Move slowly but consistently, pushing caulk into cracks and joints.

Step 5

Smooth caulk with a wet finger, wiping excess with a damp rag.

A cartoon illustration of a living room.

From House To Haven

Interior design tips to beautify your blank canvas.

  • Paint is the easiest way to dramatically change up the look of any room," says Mitsu Dhawan, brand manager for Dulux Paints. "It might be counterintuitive, but pick your paint colour last." Look for wall inspiration in the colours of your furniture, flooring, fabrics, artwork and even accessories. Choose a paint colour that contrasts furnishings for a dynamic look, or choose a hue in a similar tone for a calming, soothing effect.
  • Layer your lighting. Plug-in wall sconces add ambience and make the most of vertical space. Or try an on-trend arc floor lamp for dramatic illumination.
  • Rolling out an area rug anchors a room and creates cohesion with pops of pattern or colour. A living room rug should be large enough for you to set the front two feet of your sofa on it, plus the coffee table.
  • Add energy or serenity by hanging bold artwork or chic black-and-white photos. Just don’t hang pieces too high: The midpoint should be about 1.5 metres from the floor.
  • Mixing materials, textures and finishes can elevate a space. Consider a blend of tactile accessories like velvet curtains or wooden shades, silk or sisal rugs, wool cushions or luxe leather.

Shop for Home Essentials

Two people in green rain boots standing in a flooded room.

Home Insurance 101

Your new home will likely be your life’s biggest investment, so it’s vital to protect it with insurance—and to know what your insurance covers.

Typically, home insurance policies cover you on a replacement-cost basis for sudden, accidental losses. So if a tree falls on your roof, you’d make an insurance claim to cover the damages. On the other hand, insurance doesn’t cover problems due to lack of maintenance: You won’t have a claim if your roof leaks because the shingles are in bad shape.

Get familiar with your policy’s exclusions as well— i.e. those things that are not covered. Talking to an insurance broker is a good way to find opportunities to add coverage to fill any gaps in your policy.

It makes sense to re-evaluate your home insurance annually, and update it if necessary. Contact your insurance broker when undertaking a substantial renovation: You might need to increase your coverage to reflect changes to your property.

Likewise, if you’ll be away from home for an extended period of time, or if you want to rent out a portion (or all) of it, your policy may need to be adjusted.

Even if you have robust coverage, it’s smart to keep an emergency fund and budget for anticipated maintenance—especially bigger-ticket fixes such as roof repairs.

If you’re in an older home, you may need to factor in costs for replacing leak-prone polybutylene piping and aluminum electrical wiring, and eliminating asbestos, which can be present in drywall compound or vinyl flooring of houses built before 1990.

Learn More

A woman sitting on a couch in a living room.

Climate Control

It’s important to schedule yearly tune-ups of your heating and cooling system. Matthew Zivanov, general manager at Reliance Home Comfort, explains why.

  1. You’ll dodge a deep freeze. The majority of “no heat” calls that HVAC experts receive in winter are due to lack of maintenance. Scheduling a late-autumn furnace cleaning and inspection will help make sure it works optimally throughout winter—avoiding long and chilly wait times for service during the coldest months of the year.

  2. And you’ll keep your cool. A professional inspection of your air conditioning unit can increase efficiency and reduce costs. Among other things, a technician may clean the evaporator and condenser coils and test for refrigerant leaks. You can do your part throughout the year by keeping the outdoor compressor unit free of debris.

  3. It prevents pricier repairs. Staying on top of potential issues can help prevent untimely and potentially expensive breakdowns—and increase the life of your home’s furnace or AC unit.

Market Watch

Jennifer Queen, a Winnipeg-based Re/Max Professionals realtor, offers intel on what to know before you buy.

What’s the current state of Manitoba’s housing market?

We saw a significant increase in buyer demand in 2021, due to the after-effects of the pandemic market. It’s still a seller’s market—with lower inventory and a healthy number of active buyers because of low interest rates.

What key things do first-time buyers need to know?

Get pre-approved for a mortgage to establish your budget. Then make a wish list: What features are non-negotiable and which are flexible? Are you willing to take on any renovations? When you’re ready, interview a few realtors. Finding a home is usually a marathon, not a sprint. You want to work with someone who you know has your best interests at heart.

What about resale considerations?

If you renovate with reselling in mind, focus on design choices that will appeal to the majority of potential buyers. House hunters want to increase their living space, so boosting usable space—like finishing a basement—will go a long way.

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