Why should you have a durable home?
Have you ever had an old junker car that you were always afraid of it breaking down?
I bought my first car when I was 17 for $250. It was a 1981 Toyota Corolla Sedan with a 1.8 litre engine and standard transmission. It was already almost 20 years old when I bought it and as soon as I started driving it the starter went (which made learning to drive a standard even more fun as every time I stalled it it was harder to start). I almost always had to fix something to keep it going (which I enjoyed). Finally, after I had driven it for several years it had had enough and developed an electrical short that I couldn’t find and I had to retire it.
When we own an older car we know that many of the components are getting close to wearing out and repairs may be required frequently.
New cars can appeal to us as they look nice and require very few repairs. The only work we usually have to do is basic maintenance.
We have the same desires for our homes.
We want our home to look nice… not run down. It is always our desire for our homes to just work right and not require any repairs or maintenance. We want to be able to just move in and enjoy our home… not spend all of our spare time maintaining and repairing it.
Newer homes often require little to no repair and generally look better… unless you are going for the look of a classic, older home that can’t quite be duplicated in a newer home.
Old homes can look great too and require very few repairs but this takes work and staying ahead of the game. It takes repairing and maintaining items before they wear out beyond repair. This requires an understanding of the materials of your home.
There are many components in a home that will wear out and require replacement eventually. Maintaining them will extend their lives but their days are still numbered. Failing to replace old materials and components when they can no longer function properly may result in other issues. For example: old windows, roof, or deteriorating cladding may fail resulting in water leaks and damage to both the structure and contents of your home.
Most people know that their home will require work to maintain.They may not realize however exactly how much maintenance is required or know enough about maintaining their home to stay ahead of the maintenance curve… to stay in the zone of maintaining and not sliding into the zone of repair and replacement due to improper maintenance.
Whether your home is new or old there will eventually be some maintenance required. It is important to plan for it and manage it properly.
Maintaining your home is great but what does durability have to do with it?
What is a Durable Home?
Durability is the ability to withstand wear or damage.
Having a more durable home means that the materials, and systems in your home are designed to require less maintenance and last longer before replacement.
Less maintenance means less time, money, and stress .
Durable Home Construction
Another part of durability is to ensure that your home is constructed to perform properly.
Your home can be made of the best materials but if it isn’t constructed and detailed properly having the best materials doesn’t make it much better than an old shack.
Your home must be structurally safe and manage the flow of water, air, vapour, and heat between the indoors and outdoors.
To put it simply, a major role of the exterior shell (walls, roof, foundation/floors) is to keep the indoors and outdoors separate.
A failure of your home to properly manage water and air flow can lead to major problems including water damage and mould. Poor management of heat flow though mainly leads to high heating and cooling bills and can also lead to condensation related moisture issues.
After structural and fire safety, the most important thing to pay attention to during the construction of your home is the management of water and air flow through the exterior shell.
Durable Materials and Systems
So what are the less or more durable materials and systems in your home and what can you do to make what you have more durable?
When it comes to the existing materials and systems in your home maintenance is key.
With new homes you have the opportunity to select longer lasting products that require less maintenance.
To give you an idea of what to consider when it comes to maintaining your home and selecting more durable products I have summarized a few common products and systems below.
Wood is very common throughout the world. It can last a long time if it is well maintained. On the exterior of a home, wood will often require repainting every 3-5 years. Stains will last a bit longer than paint.
Exposing wood to higher levels of moisture results in more maintenance being required to prevent degradation. If the paint or stain is left to degrade and isn’t touched up or recoated, the wood will weather and eventually begin to rot.
Vinyl siding can last over 30 years. The colour is part of the vinyl so it will never come off though dark colours can fade over time particularly with lower quality products.
As vinyl siding ages it becomes more and more brittle and thus more lily to be damaged by impacts or hail. Brittleness is also something to keep in mind during winter… especially if you have a backyard rink that has the occasional stray hockey puck (I think that is mainly a Canadian issue though).
Cementitious siding (made of concrete and fibres with a highly durable finish coat) is another option which will withstand hail and impact damage regardless of age and temperature. James Hardie is one manufacturer of cementitious siding that I have extensive experience with. They provide a 30 year warranty against weather damage. The product cost of cementitious siding is considerably more than vinyl but the labour costs to install either product are pretty close.
It is worth considering upgrading to a cementitious siding if it is within your budget.
Windows and doors
Vinyl, Fibreglass, or Metal windows and doors require essentially no maintenance to maintain their finish. Wood windows however have a finish that must be maintained to maximize the life of the windows.
Any window that opens has seals and hardware that will wear and eventually require replacement. Depending on the material, seals,and hardware may require periodic cleaning and/or lubrication to ensure proper operation and a long life.
Generally the more you pay for a window or door, the higher quality the seals and hardware are and the longer they will last.
Most roofs have minimal scheduled maintenance and only require a visual inspection every 5 or so years and having any localized damage or failed sealant repaired.
Ashphalt Shingle Roofs
Asphalt shingle roofs are the cheapest and most common except in warmer climates.
Being the cheapest, asphalt shingles have the shortest life span usually lasting 10-20 years.
It is also important to note that usually the south facing slope of your roof goes first due to the amount of sun it is exposed to in comparison to the rest of your roof which results in faster aging of those shingles.
Wood shingle roofs
Wood shingle roofs are a very high maintenance roof system. They should be reviewed by a professional every few years and any damaged shingles replaced. This is the best way to ensure your roof will last as long as possible.
You should also know that wood shingles are excellent at allowing your attic to breathe (due to vapour being able to flow through the wood shingles) which may mask moisture issues within your attic. If present, these moisture issues may seem to begin after switching to asphalt shingles even though they were there previously.
Much more expensive than shingles, metal roofs are often used on sloped roofs because of their durability and come with up to 40 year manufacturer warranties.
These roofs can last 40-60 years and the failure typically comes when the finish ages and breaks down leading to corrosion of the panels.
Requiring maintenance only on areas of exposed sealant, metal roofs are one of the best choices for a durable roofing product. Thinner types of metal roofing are more susceptible to hail damage but thicker products can be very resistant to hail damage.
While many metal roofs are installed with the metal roofing as the only barrier against water entry, a full waterproofing membrane should be properly installed under the metal roofing. It is an additional cost during installation but will be worth the added investment.
Tile or Slate Roofs
Often more expensive than even metal roofs, tile and slate roofs are designed for the tiles to shed most of the water and should also consist of a sheet membrane on the roof deck beneath the tiles to shed water that gets beneath the tiles.
A lifespan of over 50 years is likely with these products but regular maintenance is required on areas of exposed sealants and any tiles that become loose or damaged.
Furnaces and water heaters
Like many components in your home… if you pay more…. You get a better, longer lasting product.
Newer systems have a lot of sensitive computer controlled sensors which means If they become dirty, they could stop working and require replacement. These sensors and computer components often aren’t cheap.
It is important to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance requirements to ensure your furnace or water heater will function properly.
With furnaces it is important to change the filter as often as recommended by the manufacturer.
Incandescent bulbs are the least efficient bulbs and are becoming less available.
CFL (compact fluorescent) bulbs are almost as efficient as LED’s but often have small amounts of mercury in them.
LED bulbs are the most efficient bulbs available currently and are very long lasting. Some manufacturers offer up to 10 year warranties “under normal usage”.
When you replace burnt out bulbs use an LED bulb. If you are considering replacing bulbs that still work with LED bulbs consider how often you use that light to see if it is really worth it.
When buying new light fixtures don’t get fixtures where the LED bulb is part of the fixture. Get a fixture where you can replace the bulb if it happens to go bad. Even if it is still under warranty you still have the issue of having to change out the fixture.
These are only a few examples of the durability of different materials and products on your home.
How Can Your Home Be More Durable?
As I mentioned earlier, having a more durable home means that your home is constructed properly. Not only that, the materials and systems in your home are also designed to last longer before replacement and require less maintenance.
Less maintenance means less time and money… and stress from you.
Staying on top of your home maintenance will prolong the life of the materials and systems in your home. You wouldn’t purposely neglect to change the oil on your car for 5 years would you?
New Homes or Major Renovations
When designing a new home or a major renovation look for materials with a factory applied finish which will last much longer than something that is painted on site. Also verify the manufacturer’s maintenance requirements before committing to certain materials.
It is also a good idea to speak with a contractor or other professional who has experience with the product to find out it’s expected life span and any potential issues.
Screen the contractors that you are planning to use and check their references to verify that they are reputable and have experience with the type of work that you are asking them to do.
Small Projects Around Your Current Home
When you are trying to make your current home more durable become familiar with your home and know the condition of the different materials and systems.
You need to be aware of when your windows or roof will need to be replaced in a few years so you can budget for it and have the work done before your they fail resulting in moisture damage.
When something needs to be replaced, do your homework and get a replacement that is long lasting and low maintenance.
Have your furnace and water heater cleaned annually and ensure you are replacing your furnace filters regularly. This will greatly extend the life of your furnace and water heater.
Taking the time upfront to ensure you are getting durable materials and systems for your home and planning and budgeting for maintenance and replacements will result in savings of time and money in the long run.
This savings of time and money will help make your home more sustainable to you and your finances.
I hope you have found this information beneficial and it has given you ideas as to how you can make your home more durable and how that can benefit you both immediately and in the long run.
If you have found this post valuable and if you know someone who you think would also benefit from it please share it with them.
Thank you so much for reading and until next time… Go do something to make your home a little more sustainable.