Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

MIKE HOLMES: Resolve to keep your house in solid shape

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It's a new year, and plenty of people are making resolutions, usually relating to self-improvement. Some people might want to break a bad habit, such as smoking; others want to start a new habit, such as exercising regularly. But not a lot of people think about resolutions for their homes.

A healthy home is ground zero for a healthy life. To me, that's a no-brainer. I think any homeowners experiencing issues with their homes would agree with me. They invade every part of your life and your kids' lives. So I'm giving you my top New Year's resolutions to help keep your home shipshape for 2013.

Fix from the outside in

Homeowners are always thinking about renovating the kitchen or a bathroom, knocking down a wall, or making a room bigger. They spend all their time choosing tiles, flooring, appliances, lighting. But you know where the money should be spent first? On your home's exterior.

Too many homeowners don't realize anything inside the home is at risk if you don't take care of the outside.

So let's say you spend $30,000 on a kitchen or $10,000 on a new bathroom. If you have problems with the roof, the foundation, the weeping tile or the insulation -- anything that has to do with your home's building envelope -- that new kitchen or bathroom might have to be torn out to address the problems behind them. And if you don't, it won't be long before those problems make their way to the surface.

Tiles might start to crack. Leaks will work their way through drywall. Not to mention the air quality and health issues that come with these kinds of problems.

A problem with your home's exterior will eventually be a problem with your home's interior. It's only a matter of time.

Before you tackle anything inside your home, take care of any leaks -- fix a leaking foundation, fix the roof if it needs repair. Repoint any mortar that needs it. And check if there's any mould. If there is, start planning a remediation immediately. Which brings me to resolution No. 2.

Get a maintenance inspection

Hire a professional to come to your home and do a thorough check of all its major systems. Have the pro check the roof, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), plumbing, electrical, basement, basement crawl space, garage and attic. This will help you know what the issues are and what needs to be addressed first.

An inspection helps you create a maintenance and renovation schedule for the entire year -- maybe even the next five years. It gives you a clear plan on repairs and renovations that will give you the most value -- not just for your home, but for your family.

When hiring maintenance inspectors, make sure they are certified. Ask for referrals and talk to previous clients. Find out if they use a thermal camera, and if so, whether they have Level-1 certification in thermography. Do they have insurance, and how much? Do they use a ladder? You need to know all this to hire the right pro.

Think green

This is about more than just choosing sustainable building methods and green products. It's about choosing mould-resistant products when possible and also low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) materials. It's about incorporating fire-resistant materials if you're building or renovating your home.

Why do I consider these things green? Because they help keep materials from going in the landfill. Think about it: If you have a bathroom that has mould, it's coming down. That's a lot of material that cannot be reused or recycled.

Fire-resistant materials stop fires from spreading and damaging other areas of your home. Low-VOC products help keep the air we breathe clean and safe. When we renovate and rebuild right it extends the life of your home and eases the burden on the environment.

Always get permits

I've said this maybe a million times, but I can't say it enough. Permits protect homeowners. If you renovate your home and you have a problem with it later, and your contractor didn't take out any permits, you've got nothing to fall back on. You're stuck paying not only for two renovations, but also two demos.

That's a huge waste of money and materials. Plus, it's a huge waste of your and your family's time, and causes stress and discomfort. As far as I'm concerned, if you don't get permits, you are asking for trouble.

Sticking to these resolutions will give you peace of mind for the rest of the year. What more can you ask for? Have a happy, healthy new year.

Catch Mike Holmes in his new series Holmes Makes It Right Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on HGTV. For more information, visit hgtv.ca. For more information on home renovations, visit makeitright.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 F2

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