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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.

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.

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.

Tornado Season Has Begun – Are You Prepared?

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

In any given year, about 1,000 tornadoes can be expected to strike in the U.S., causing about 75 deaths and 1,500 injuries. In southern states, tornado season typically runs from March 1 through May; in northern states, it’s generally late spring through early summer. Tornadoes vary greatly in intensity and can cause potential home damage, but tornadoes and damages are very unpredictable.

A tornado watch issued by the National Weather Service means current weather conditions are ripe for a tornado. Monitor local radio, TV or an NOAA emergency radio for updates and be prepared to act if a tornado develops.

A tornado warning means a tornado has actually been sighted or appears on radar. This indicates imminent danger to life and property. Take immediate shelter in an interior room of the house on the lowest floor. If the house includes a basement, move all occupants and pets into the basement. Stay away from windows.

To be prepared for whatever may come in tornado season, here are some additional things to keep in mind:

  • If your local municipality utilizes tornado warning sirens, familiarize yourself with the sound and what it signifies.
  • Keep first aid kits well-stocked and fire extinguishers on hand. Know the location of these items.
  • Know how to shut off the main water valve to the house to prevent flooding in the event of pipe ruptures.
  • Become informed about emergency procedures at your children’s school in the event of a tornado.
  • Mobile homes are inherently dangerous in a tornado. Many mobile home parks therefore have community shelters. Know if your park has a shelter, where it is, and how to quickly access it.
  • Continue to monitor local radio, TV or an NOAA emergency radio after the tornado passes for information about current conditions that could trigger a second tornado.
  • When you venture outside after a tornado, be aware of hazards posed by downed power lines and broken gas mains.

4 Tips For Spring Storm Preparation

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

Will damaging spring storms strike this year? Or will fickle weather patterns or blind random chance give you a break this time? The best antidote for uncertainty is being prepared for whatever happens, whenever it may happen. Many types of storm damage that commonly occur can be minimized by taking advance preventive measures before the actual need arises. You can’t control the forces of the atmosphere, but here are four steps you can take to make storm damage less likely this spring.

1. Maintain the gutters. Water runoff from a residential roof of average size can amount to nearly 1,000 gallons during a one-inch rainstorm. Make sure gutters aren’t clogged and are securely mounted to the house to withstand the heavy weight of runoff during intense rain. Also, downspouts should ideally extend a minimum of three feet away from the house to divert water far enough away and prevent damage.

2. Get a roof inspection. If you haven’t had a professional roof inspection in a few years, schedule one now before the potential for spring storms strikes. The effects of UV exposure, freeze/thaw cycles, wind and aging materials combine to cause deterioration that promotes leakage, particularly in heavy rain. Roof leaks into the attic trigger mold growth, destroy insulation and eventually infiltrate the living spaces below through the ceiling.

3. Test the sump pump. Because sump pumps typically spend most of the time on standby, it’s important to ensure that the system will be fully functional if/when it’s needed. Make sure the sump basin is clear of any debris. Pour 5 gallons of water into the basin and verify that the pump automatically actuates, empties the basin, then shuts off. Go outside and check the termination of the discharge pipe to make sure it’s not clogged and releases water far enough away from the house.

4. Check out the trees. High winds associated with spring storms may break overhanging limbs, causing roof damage. Weak or dead trees may be toppled, striking the house with expensive consequences. Cut back limbs that extend over the roof and remove marginal trees.

What Should Be in an Emergency Bag for Hurricanes or Flood Conditions?

Wednesday, February 6th, 2019

According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), emergency evacuations are more common than many people suspect. The largest in U.S. history occurred in 1999, when 3 million residents on the Atlantic coast left their homes as Hurricane Floyd approached. However, in addition to hurricanes, tornadoes, flash floods, wildfires, toxic spills, prolonged power outages and even severe frigid weather are among the unexpected events that may trigger a local evacuation order.

“Be Prepared” is the general advice for homeowners, but what about specifics? One common recommendation is to keep an evacuation bag ready at all times. It’s often called a “Go Bag” by emergency authorities, because that’s exactly what it’s for: If the need to quickly evacuate your home ever occurs, you’re already prepared to go in a hurry.

For a fully-stocked “Go Bag”, you’ll need a sturdy duffel bag or large knapsack. Don’t rely on plastic trash bags or other last-minute temporary substitutes. Keep a permanent, fully-stocked bag on hand and make sure every adult occupant in the house knows where it is stored. Here are some recommended contents of your “Go Bag.”

  • Three-day supply of non-perishable food and water for each occupant. Don’t count on shelters or other alternate destinations to provide food.
  • Local road maps with evacuation routes clearly marked.
  • Prescription medications for anyone who requires them as well as over-the-counter remedies such as aspirin.
  • Change of clothing for a few days per each person.
  • Extra car keys, credit cards and cash.
  • First aid kit.
  • Flashlights.
  • Battery-powered radio with extra batteries.
  • Personal sanitation items.
  • Photocopies of vital documents like birth certificates and passports, medical and home insurance policies, as well as relevant contact info for your insurance agent.
  • Backup of important files on home computer on portable flash drive.
  • If you have pets, include food and water for them, too.
  • Cellphone and laptop charger.

If dangerous weather conditions or other hazards loom, monitor local media for announcements by emergency agencies. Evacuate your home promptly if/when you are advised to do so. Don’t delay, waiting and hoping that conditions may improve. Grab the Go Bag and go.

Common Fall Home Water Issues and How to Handle Them

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

autumn weatherFall is a transitional time of year, which means water damage issues are also in flux. While the snow and ice of winter are still some ways off, the shift from summer heat to cooler autumn weather presents certain seasonal conditions that may impact your home and possessions. Here are some tips to prevent potential water damage.

  • Clean the gutters. Autumn leaves clog gutters and downspouts. When substantial rainfall occurs, gutters overflow and spill water down exterior walls, penetrating siding and infiltrating wall cavities. Indoor water damage and mold growth result. Due to safety issues, gutters should always be cleaned from a sturdy ladder, not by standing up on the roof. Hire a professional if you’re not comfortable working from a ladder.
  • Check the air conditioner condensate drain. Before putting the A/C to sleep for the winter, take a look inside the condensate drain pan located underneath the indoor air handler. It’s normal for it to be wet, but you should not see standing water that indicates a clogged or sluggish condensate drain line. Stagnant water inside the pan can become a source of toxic mold contamination during the off-season. Clearing a clogged condensate drain requires the services of a qualified HVAC service technician.
  • In many coastal areas, fall is hurricane season. Take advance steps to safeguard your home against water damage from severe storms or hurricanes that may occur in fall. Have the roof inspected for loose or deteriorated shingles or other signs of incipient leakage. Cut back any limbs or trees that could fall in high winds and damage the roof or walls. To prevent water intrusion in storm conditions, use caulking or spray foam insulation to seal any openings in exterior walls such as points where conduits or pipes enter the house, garden hose bibs and around vents.
  • Prepare the sprinkler system. Before the first freeze strikes, follow the manufacturer’s procedure to winterize your underground sprinklers. An underground rupture due to freezing in the main line or the shutoff valve connected to household water could affect the house foundation and/or cause basement flooding.

3 Tips for Fall Storm Preparation

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

fall storm damageWhile hurricane and tropical storm season officially commences in June, peak activity tends to occur later during the fall, beginning in late August and extending through October. This season is most likely to produce severe storms that bring the threat of potential property damage. The good news is, the usually predictable pattern provides a window of opportunity to prepare in advance. There’s no guarantee that a storm will strike, nor is there any assurance that you can prevent all damage if it does. Nevertheless, statistics show that a few preventive measures can help improve the odds. Here are three steps to take for fall storm preparation:

  • Protect the roof. During high winds associated with a storm, limbs close to the house that break can cause roof damage and water intrusion. Cut back nearby limbs to establish a clear zone on all sides of the house. Also, a falling tree weighs several tons and can inflict severe structural damage. Any dead or compromised trees on the property should be removed now, before a storm threatens.
  • Clean the gutters. Autumn leaves often clog gutters, causing torrential gutter overflow during heavy rain. The cascade of water down the side of the house penetrates siding and infiltrates the exterior wall causing water damage and triggering mold growth. Adding a flexible extension to gutter downspouts to discharge roof runoff at least six feet from the house also helps reduce the chance of basement water intrusion or foundation damage.
  • Prevent basement flooding. Excessive rain can quickly saturate soil surrounding the basement and leak in through cracks in foundation walls. Only a few inches of water in a basement can cause damage that exceeds $10,000. A sump pump installed in the basement floor actuates automatically to remove water before it accumulates. If a sump pump is already installed, test it now by pouring five gallons of water into the sump basin to verify that it pumps the basin out. Because power outages frequently accompany severe storms, consider adding a pump with backup battery feature to ensure that the unit activates when its needed most.

How Tornadoes Can Cause Water Damage to Your Home

Tuesday, August 14th, 2018

tornado damageWhile hurricanes that trigger storm surges are better known for disastrous widespread flooding, a tornado can set the stage for severe water damage—one house at a time.

The first consequence of most tornadoes is rapid structural destruction. Here’s how that sequence leads to water damage:

  • In literally the first second of contact, circular forces created by the tornado vortex peel off roof shingles and sub-structure, break windows, implode doors.
  • In just two more seconds, high velocity air blasting through busted windows and blown out doorways can inflate the house interior with enough pressure to lift the roof up off the wall structure and toss it aside.
  • Now lacking windows, doors and perhaps even a roof, what’s left of the house and whatever’s inside is totally exposed to what usually happens next: water damage.

How Much Rainfall Occurs During A Tornado?

Little or none. The tornado itself is often a dry event as rain seldom falls in the strong updraft of the funnel cloud. However, a tornado is a phenomenon associated with large severe storms. Striking in the immediate wake of the twister, these extreme storms bring wind-driven torrential rain and hail, the factors that inflict severe water damage and secondary issues like mold contamination on the interior of damaged structures.

What Can Be Done To Reduce Water Damage Due To Tornadoes?

Unfortunately, a house that takes a direct hit from a tornado rated EF-4 with winds exceeding 165 miles per hour would have to be built to the standards of a concrete bomb shelter to resist structural damage that allows water intrusion. Even windows would have to be replaced with the equivalent of bulletproof glass, a very expensive proposition.

Certain measures utilized to reduce hurricane damage may apply to low-grade tornadoes. These include retrofitting the structure with metal brackets to attach the roof rafters to the wall structure and prevent roof lifting in high winds. The garage door, a major weak link in any house, may also be upgraded to a reinforced model designed to resist extreme wind forces.

4 Tips for Summer Storm Preparation

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

summer stormAccording to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, no region of the United States can be considered completely safe from damage caused by severe storms. Hot temperatures and moist, unstable air frequently culminate in heavy rain and high winds, as well as the potential for localized flooding. Of the 100,000 thunderstorms that occur yearly in the U.S., fully 10,000 pose a threat sufficient to trigger a severe weather alert. Since these storms are most often a summer phenomenon, here are four timely preparation tips to prevent damage at this time of year.

  • Take out hazardous trees. In a severe storm, trees pose a major threat to your house. A falling tree weighs thousands of pounds and even large limbs that break off in high winds can cause significant property damage. Homeowner’s insurance typically does not cover storm damage caused by toppled trees if the tree is rotting or otherwise weakened. Marginal trees on the property should be removed as a preventive measure.
  • Get the roof checked out. A professional roof inspection is critical to detect subtle defects such as cracked shingles, faulty flashing and leaky vents. By the time a roof leak is obvious inside the house or attic, significant expensive damage may have already been done to the roof structure.
  • Consider a sewage check valve. In heavy downpours during severe storms, the municipal sewer system may become temporarily inundated, causing raw sewage to flow backwards into houses connected to the system. A backwater check valve installed in your sewer line permits flow of sewage in one direction only—away from your home—preventing toxic backflow into the house during heavy rain.
  • Install a sump pump with battery backup. Statistics show that most houses with a basement will eventually have a flooded basement during heavy rain. A sump pump installed in the basement floor activates automatically to remove water and prevent flooding. Since the severe storms that cause basement flooding frequently trigger power outages, too, get a sump pump with a battery backup feature.