Protecting Your House from Windstorms
Windstorms can be devastating to you and your home. That’s why securing your home as much as possible for our typical howling northwest weather is simply being smart.
ROOFS, WINDOWS AND DOORS
Like so much of home maintenance, preparing for a windstorm is all about being proactive. The four main areas that should be checked for weakness before storm season are the roof, siding, windows and doors of any kind.
During a normal windstorm, the wind pushes against the outside of your home. Homes are typically designed to transfer a wind load on your roof and exterior walls through the interior shear walls safely to the foundation and soils below. If the energy of the wind is not properly transferred to the ground as designed, a home can sustain severe structural damage at the weakest point.
Our older housing stock has done well over the years because the old craftsmen installed sheathing on both the exterior and interior walls, making the house very wind resistant. But failure does happen when there is a weak link, such as foundation posts that are rotted, bug damaged or not in contact with their pier block.
Newer homes rely on the creation of interior and exterior shear walls, which is basically achieved by gluing and extra screwing of drywall panels in a prescribed manner. Neither old nor new construction can withstand a giant tree through the house or the whole roof structure being lifted off. Our houses are built to withstand our typical weather and at times, howling gales and driven rains. But we have all noticed that even the sustained wind speeds are longer and the volume of rain in any given event can be much more.
As we experience wilder weather throughout the country, the Washington State Building Code Counsel and our municipalities are required to adopt new construction methods and retrofit codes to ensure your health and safety. An assessment by a qualified home inspector or civil engineer isn’t a bad idea if your house is situated in a vulnerable area or you suspect there are issues with your house, like it waves in the wind.
If you have an older home or a home located in a particularly wind-prone area, you may want to consider adding additional roof frame-bracing, gable-end bracing and inexpensive, but effective metal hurricane straps.
If you have a pier-and-post foundation, it might be a good time to have it checked. A professional consultant or engineer would be the best person to advise you on your home’s existing condition and advise you on specific repair or retrofit needs that offset the power of the wind, in our area.
Around Grays Harbor, the likelihood of a windstorm ravaging your home is greater than most other forms of natural devastation. Your risk of damage greatly depends on your location, the orientation to severe winds, proximity to trees and the condition of your home.
Upgrading specific components to meet or exceed modern codes is something you may want to consider as our weather is changing and getting stronger. Installing roof truss straps and foundation gussets at each post are both inexpensive and effective. They help in earthquakes, too.
Also, inspect your windows and doors to see if they are
secure. If they rattle in the wind, it may be time for
replacement or repair.
TAKE A LOOK OUTSIDE
If windy weather is on the way, before it hits, take a few
minutes to take a look around your yard and secure any
toys, outdoor furniture, tools, or decorations that could
be ruined or become missile-like during a storm. BBQs
like to roll and tip over!
Are there trees in your yard, especially those near power lines and especially within reach of your home? Do you have any large branches that are a potential threat to your home or your neighbors? Could they crunch a parked or passing car or hit a passerby? Even a tree branch rubbing against your siding during a windstorm is damaging your house. Trim them so they are at least one to two feet away from your house.
Taking out the tree tops is an effective wind control, but If you don’t feel qualified to determine what needs to be trimmed and/or you’re not able to do the work yourself, check around. Grays Harbor and Pacific counties have plenty of qualified tree trimmers and tree fallers. The relatively small expense now could save you a fortune later and will certainly yield peace of mind in the meantime -- maybe even save a life, which could be your own.
CLEANING GUTTERS KEY
Before – and yes, after – a storm, using a ladder safety
stand-off, clear your gutters. The maple seeds, cones,
needles and leaves can clog your gutters sending waves
of water cascading down your house. While you’re at it
check your downspouts. At the lower end, you not only
don’t water pooling on your siding, you don’t want it
puddling near your foundation or basement. Use a pipe
or trough to extent your downspouts’ path at least two
feet away from your foundation, but up to 10 feet if needed.
This is a great job for a handy man you trust and shouldn’t
take that long.
WHAT TO DO WITH A LEAK
The best way to avoid a leaky house is through prevention,
making sure your roof is sound, your windows, skylights
and doors are correctly sealed and that your gutters and
downspouts are clear and positioned correctly. But the
truth is that sometimes despite our best efforts – or best
intentions – our house can spring a leak.
Just like wind, water is a very powerful source and one that
must be addressed quickly and correctly. If water starts
dripping or pouring into your house the amount of damage caused in a short time can be staggering.
We suggest you always have at least a couple tarps or thin plastic painter’s drops and tacks on hand. Catch the water as close to the source of the leak as possible. If you get a leak in your roof go into the attic and catch the water. If there are several dripping sources, use a tarp fashioned into a large indoor funnel directing the water into a central pail. Hopefully you will protect your furniture, walls and floor covers from unnecessary damage.
Window leaking? This is what you can do: Tape plastic film right to the window below the drip and drape the plastic into a pail.
Do what you have to do as safely as possible. Trying to tarp a leaking roof in the storm is dangerous. Catching and controlling water intrusion inside the house makes much more sense.