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How to Stop Foundation Water Damage to Your Home

Tuesday, August 13th, 2019

Every element of your home’s structure ultimately relies on an intact foundation. A damaged or deteriorating foundation undermines the stability and strength of the entire house. What’s worse, a permanent fix can be exceedingly costly—a major reason why a defective foundation is often a deal-breaker when a home’s up for sale. Ironically, one of the biggest threats to the integrity of that solid concrete structure supporting your house is simply water.

Chronic exposure to water deteriorates concrete foundations and also undermines the soil supporting it. Here are some ways to keep water and foundation separated and avoid highly expensive consequences.

Manage Drainage

Grade landscape so water flows away from the foundation. The slope away from the house should decline by at least 6 inches over a 10-foot distance. For best results, create the graded slope using dense soil such as clay that carries water away instead of absorbing it.

If drainage by grading isn’t adequate, consider adding a french drain around the foundation perimeter. Installed in a gravel-filled trench about two feet deep, a perforated plastic pipe conveys accumulating ground water away from the house to a deeper portion of the yard.

Maintain Gutters

Clogged, overflowing gutters pound water deep into the soil adjacent to the foundation during heavy rain. Chronic moisture from saturated soil infiltrates the pores of a cement foundation as well as seeping through cracks and crevices, causing ongoing deterioration. Keep gutters flowing freely and extend downspouts to discharge water at least three feet (more is better) from the house.

Resolve Plumbing Issues

Water supply lines are frequently routed beneath the slab foundation of a home. Unseen leakage from these pipes can erode supporting soil, causing the foundation to shift and crack. If a hidden plumbing leak is suspected due to unexplained water bill increases or other signs, have it checked out by a qualified plumber.

Install A Sump Pump

In some locales, the continuous pressure of natural ground water rising under the foundation causes deterioration and seepage. A sump pump installed in the foundation or basement floor relieves pressure by collecting water and automatically pumping it outdoors.

Summer Storms Can Bring Summer Damage… Be Prepared

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Every year, summer storms cause about 15 billion dollars in property damage. High winds, flooding, hail, tornadoes, lightning: winter seems like a fairly benign season compared to the damage potential present during the summer months. No home in any state can be considered totally safe from these three months of tempestuous weather, driven by rising heat and moisture. From the top of the house to the bottom, here are a few timely suggestions to be prepared:

Secure The Roof

Your roof takes the brunt of summer storms. Schedule an inspection by a roofing professional to check for split or missing shingles, dislodged flashing, leaky skylights and other issues that could cause indoor water damage from a heavy rain. Also, ensure gutters are securely attached and water flows freely through downspouts. A complete roof inspection should include an attic check to look for evidence of leakage or deterioration on the underside of the roof sheathing.

Manage Trees

Overhanging limbs can become an issue in high winds. Thrashing limbs scraping the roof can cause damage even if limbs remain intact. If they break, the weight of a heavy limb impacting the roof can inflict severe damage to the roof structure. Large limbs extending over the house should be cut back. If any tree limbs that are close enough to strike the home are weak, dying or otherwise compromised, consider having these limbs or the whole tree removed.

Divert Drainage

Water pooling close to the home during heavy rain may seep into the structure or undermine a slab foundation. Ensure that your surrounding landscape is graded so that water flows away from the house and into the yard.

Protect The Basement

Water inundation may damage a basement in two ways: Heavy rain saturating the soil can penetrate basement walls and/or rising ground water may infiltrate through a basement floor. A sump pump installed in a basin excavated at the lowest part of the basement collects entering water and automatically pumps it out to prevent flooding. Due to power outages frequently associated with summer storms, a sump pump with battery backup feature is preferable.

What is the Difference Between a Flood Warning and a Flood Watch?

Thursday, July 25th, 2019

Officials at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) report that fully 98% of counties in the United States have experienced severe flooding at one one time or another in their history. A FEMA fact sheet expresses this risk in more plain and simple terms: “Anywhere it can rain, it can flood.”

To inform you of a potential flood event and necessary flood safety measures, the National Weather Service (NWS) issues bulletins keyed to areas located along specific bodies of water such as rivers or coastal regions, as well as on a county-by-county basis across the entire country. Here are the levels of NWS alerts regarding flooding:

Flood Watch

This is the preliminary alert to make you aware of conditions that could potentially cause flooding. Typically, a flood watch is issued to cover a time frame of 24 to 48 hours. The watch will state that flooding could possibly take place in a designated general area. A flood watch does not mean flooding is already occurring, nor is it a guarantee that it will occur. If your home is in an area covered by a flood watch, it’s a good idea to keep a radio or television tuned in to potential updates in the event you are advised to take additional action.

Flood Warning

This means flooding in your area is already occurring or is imminent. The alert includes vital information such as forecasted conditions, duration that the warning is in effect, evacuation advisories, information about blocked roads and locations of emergency shelters. If a flood warning is issued, follow the information provided in the warning and take immediate action to evacuate the area or move to higher ground.

Flash Flood Warning

These alerts warn of rapidly-developing flash floods that can turn dry conditions into a life-threatening danger zone in a matter of only minutes. You will be advised to move to nearest higher ground without any delay. There may not be time to evacuate to any remote location. Flash flood warnings should never be disregarded, even if it’s not raining at your specific location at that moment.

Floodwaters are Coming – What NOT to Do…

Thursday, July 18th, 2019

Over 75% of Presidential disaster declarations are issued due to flooding. While more dramatic natural calamities may draw more media coverage, inundation by water from one source or another leads the statistics for damage and dislocation in this country. Information about positive steps to take in case of a flood is widely available and applicable to scenarios in most locales. However, now and then it’s helpful to take the reverse approach and pass along advice from various experts about what not to do.

Here are some things to avoid when floodwaters threaten:

  • Being out of touch. If potential flood conditions are present, keep a radio or television on and tuned to a channel that provides current coverage and emergency information.
  • Engaging in denial and delay. If official warnings are issued by authorities, don’t put off taking proactive steps to ensure your safety. Past experience with floods that didn’t materialize doesn’t mean you’ll get lucky again.
  • Not having a plan. Every household should have an evacuation plan including routes (and alternate routes) to get out of the area as well as the location of nearest high ground for emergency escape.
  • Staying home to “save the house.” Occupying a house during a significant flood does little or nothing to prevent water inundation nor limit the extent of damage. What it does do is expose the occupant to unnecessary dangers and often require first responders to rescue the trapped individual if/when things get really bad.
  • Wading into floodwater. Moving floodwater is more powerful than you think, deeper than you expect and usually highly toxic due to raw sewage and chemicals picked up along the way. Stay out of it if at all possible.
  • Coming home too soon. Even if local conditions appear to be moderate, don’t return home before an official announcement that it’s safe. Severe weather remote from your location may still swell rivers and lakes and trigger a flash flood.
  • Entering a wet house with power on. Electrical power may still be live in flooded houses. Fatal electrocutions are a frequent post-flood danger. Contact an electrician to disconnet utility power before entering the house.

How to Manage Humidity in Your Home this Summer

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

High outdoor humidity is a fact of life during summer in many locales. Often, it doesn’t stay outdoors. In addition to being a source of discomfort to occupants, persistent indoor humidity degrades building materials and triggers growth of toxic mold. Because your air conditioner runs longer to maintain indoor comfort when humidity is high, monthly cooling costs are also elevated.

How High Is Too High?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends maintaining the indoor humidity level at a range of 50% to 60%. During summer, most locations in the U.S. exceed that level in either morning or afternoon measurements. Therefore, special effort is required to keep the indoor environment less humid than outdoors. Here are some things you can do to reduce excessive humidity in the house this summer:

  • Maintain the air conditioner. Indoor humidity control is an important function of the air conditioning process. Dry air cools more efficiently than humid air. Schedule annual professional A/C maintenance including servicing the indoor evaporator coil that extracts water vapor from air and checking refrigerant charge to ensure optimum humidity reduction. Also, change the air filter monthly to keep system airflow up to specs.
  • Air seal the house. Outdoor humidity naturally migrates into drier zones indoors. Small cracks and gaps in the structure of the house allow humid air to leak into the interior and raise indoor levels. Check the weatherstripping around doors and windows and replace if its worn or missing. Look for cracks in the structure around exterior walls and gaps along the baseboard; seal with silicone caulking.
  • Exhaust humid rooms. High levels of water vapor in kitchen and bathrooms are common and should be controlled with ceiling exhaust fans. Make sure the fan exhaust duct extends all the way to the exterior of the house, not just into the attic.
  • Install a whole-house dehumidifier. These units, connected to your central HVAC ductwork, automatically extract water vapor from the system airflow to keep indoor humidity levels at the desired setting. All air circulating through the entire house is continuously dehumidified as long as the system is running.

Preventing Home Water Damage in the Summer

Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Though the “water damage season” actually runs throughout the entire year, certain times are more likely than others to present specific challenges. Summer, for example, has its own unique circumstances that may trigger water damage, most of which are related to outdoor weather. While you can’t do anything to control the weather, you may be able to take steps to prevent or reduce the ultimate outcome of weather-related water damage. Here are some typical sources of summer water damage and what can be done to best avoid it.

Severe Storms

Heat-triggered thunderstorms can dump several inches of rainfall in a short time on a hot, humid summer day. This abrupt transition from dry to deluge can inflict water damage in several ways:

  • Gutter overflows. Water spilling out of clogged gutters penetrates exterior walls as well as undermines the foundation and seeps into the basement. Inspect gutters and downspouts and keep them clear of debris. Make sure downspouts are long enough to discharge water at least three feet from the house.
  • Roof leakage. Saturated attic insulation and water dripping down through ceilings into living spaces during a summer storm is an untimely way to find out that your roof leaks. Experts recommend a professional roof inspection every three years for asphalt and wood-shingle roofs. You can do some DIY checking yourself by climbing into the attic and looking for signs of leakage such as dark streaks on the underside of sub-roofing.

Air Conditioner Issues

Keeping you cool on a hot summer day, a central A/C unit extracts gallons of water vapor from the air. If everything works right, it’s collected in the condensate drip pan, then conveyed down the drain line. If the drip pan or drain line is clogged, the pan overflows every time the system cycles on, potentially inflicting substantial water damage before it’s noticed. While the unit’s running, use a flashlight to inspect the drip pan under the air handler. It’s normal for it to be wet. However, if you see standing water, contact an HVAC service technician to troubleshoot the drain system.

Can Drywall be Sealed and Painted After Water Damage?

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

When indoor water damage strikes, drywall is often among the most conspicuous casualties. A ruptured pipe inside a wall cavity, a roof leak dripping down through the ceiling during heavy rain, water flooding a room and rising to meet the bottom of the walls—any of these scenarios can affect the highly absorbent combination of gypsum core and thin cardboard backing that composes a sheet of drywall. Is it a lost cause?

Maybe, Maybe Not

If wet drywall loses structural stability and sags or becomes deformed —or crumbles or collapses—it’s not a candidate for anything other than replacement. But what about drywall that remains intact, yet displays the discolored blotch that’s often left behind when wet drywall dries? Can you successfully seal and paint that ugly stain out of your life?

Here are some guidelines to painting stained, water-damaged drywall.

  • Rule 1: You can’t paint drywall until it’s completely dry. Ideally, this should be verified with use of a moisture meter to be certain. To adequately dry soaked drywall and prevent mold growth, professional water damage remediation experts utilize equipment such as an industrial dehumidifier running inside the sealed room as well as high-volume fans that continuously move air to accelerate the drying process. Only when the moisture meter reading drops below 1% —usually not before at least three days of intensive drying following the initial contact with water—should painting intact drywall be considered.
  • Once it is tested and confirmed dry, seal the drywall by painting the affected area with a thin application of an oil-based or alcohol-based primer. Allow the first coat to dry completely, then apply a second coat of primer.
  • After the primer has fully dried, you can apply the first coat of latex or whatever other type of paint was originally used. It may be difficult to match the existing color when painting only a small stained area affected by water, so you may have to paint the entire wall or ceiling for consistency’s sake. After the first coat dries thoroughly, apply a finish coat.

Are Your Rain Gutters Ready for Spring?

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Just one inch of rain falling on the rooftop of an average 1,400 square foot house produces over 800 gallons of runoff. Where all that water ends up largely depends on your gutters. If they’re clogged, leaky or sagging, water cascading off the roof may penetrate the exterior siding and cause indoor water damage, undermine the foundation, or leak into the basement. To make sure your gutters are ready for spring and summer rain, here’s a primer on gutter maintenance.

If you’re not secure working on a ladder, for safety’s sake contact a professional gutter maintenance service to take on this job.

Gutter Cleaning

  • Put on gloves and remove larger loose debris stuck in the gutters such as twigs and leaves by hand.
  • If clogged gutters have retained stagnant water, you’ll usually find a layer of dirt, shingle particles and other smaller stuff accumulated in the lower portion of the gutter, underneath the larger debris. This can be scooped out using a trowel, putty knife or spoon.
  • Use a garden hose to flush out the cleaned segment of gutters.
  • Observe downspouts to verify free water flow. If downspouts are clogged, remove the nozzle from the hose, insert the hose into the bottom of the downspout and run it upwards to the roof with water running to flush out the clog.

Leaking End Caps

If water constantly leaks out the end of a gutter span, the end cap is defective. Remove the securing screw, pry off the old cap and take it to a home center to find a replacement. Remove any residue or debris on the end of the gutter. Fill the mating slot in the replacement cap with exterior silicone sealant and press the cap onto the end of the gutter. Install the screw to secure it.

Sagging Gutters

Replace failing attachments with new metal gutter hangers that extend around the exterior of the gutter and grip securely. Replace old brackets one at a time. Attach the new gutter hanger at a solid location on the fascia and secure with screws. Gutter hangers should be spaced three feet apart.

4 Ways to Prevent Residential Flooding

Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

How bad can it get if your house is flooded? Consider these insurance industry statistics: Just one inch of water loose in a home can inflict over $8,000 in water damage. Nine inches raises the total damage above $18,000. Of course, there’s no figure available for the irreplaceable family possessions that might be ruined, too.

While you can’t do much about water inundation from outdoor sources like a hurricane or overflowing river, indoor causes are more predictable. Here are four ways to prevent indoor flooding in your home:

Maintain and repair plumbing.

Don’t let risky plumbing issues persist. Even minor pinhole leaks in water supply lines or seepage around pipe joints may be indicators of internal corrosion that might trigger a major pipe rupture at any time. A broken 1/2-inch water supply line will typically release over 100 gallons of water into your home every hour until the supply is shut off.

Know where to shut off the water.

Know the location of the house main water shutoff valve and how to operate it. Shutoff valves that aren’t turned occasionally may eventually stick. Test the valve at least once a year to make sure it still operates freely. If it doesn’t, don’t force it—call a plumber. Also, locate the individual supply valves to each toilet, usually near the floor behind the toilet tank. Test each valve to ensure it turns freely. If a toilet overflow should occur, turning off water at that valve is the fastest way to limit flooding damage.

Inspect appliances.

Check the icemaker water line and its connection at the back of the refrigerator. Make sure it’s secure. Replace rubber washing machine supply hoses with braided stainless steel lines that are much less likely to rupture. Remove the kick plate at the bottom front of the dishwasher. Use a flashlight to look underneath for any signs of ongoing leakage.

Take precautions if you’re going away.

A broken pipe can be catastrophic if nobody’s home to notice and take appropriate action. Turn off the house water supply at the main water valve before you leave.

Can Landscaping Protect A House From Spring Floods?

Tuesday, May 21st, 2019

Nothing can fully protect a home from water damage if it’s repeatedly exposed to outdoor flooding. Heavy spring rains often cause deep pooling in the yard adjacent to the house. This water can eventually penetrate most building materials (even concrete foundation) and damage the structure as well as the home’s interior. The best cure is prevention: Keep water and house as far apart from each other as possible. Here are some ways to use landscaping to protect your home from flooding during the rainy season.

Grade Wisely

If nearby ground is flat or actually slopes toward the house, water intrusion will be a problem in heavy rain. The ground should slope away from the house at a minimum of five degrees to divert water at least 10 feet from the house. A five-degree slope means the ground surface six feet from the house is three inches lower than the ground immediately next to the house.

Build Swales

A swale is a shallow, linear depression in the yard. During rain, it serves as a channel to redirect water away from the house, allowing it to soak into the ground along the way. A common yard swale is 6 inches to a foot deep and two feet or more wide. It can be seeded with grass, clover or other plantings to make it blend in. A swale to drain a residential yard is usually shallow enough to run a lawn mower over.

Plant Grass

Large bare spots in the yard actually cause water to flow along the surface of the ground faster and not be absorbed. The root structure of healthy growing grass makes soil absorb water more rapidly. Plant grass to cover large bare spots near the house. When mowing, don’t cut the grass too short, which shrinks its roots.

Install French Drains

Buried in a sloping, gravel-filled trench deeper than the home structure’s lowest point, a french drain consists of a perforated plastic pipe that collects underground water. The pipe is routed in a direction to discharge that water into a deeper, more absorbent area of the yard.