Did you know we are approaching the 10-year anniversary of the Winter Storm of 2007?
Remember the hurricane force gusts and the howling winds that went on for days? (And peeled off roofs that sported blue tarps for months?)
With power outages that typically lasted five days or longer, we all learned something about being prepared – or what life is like when you’re not.
Or perhaps you better remember the Dec. 2015 storms and flooding in downtown Aberdeen and Hoquiam.
Sitting in our warm, dry, lighted houses remembering is a far cry from experiencing the actual disaster.
Today we’re going to give you some tips on caring for your house to lessen your risk of a windstorm leaving you out in the cold.
CHECK OUTSIDE FIRST
If you haven’t done it yet, there’s no time like the present to take a look at the area surrounding your house and secure any toys, tools or other paraphernalia that could be ruined or become missile-like during a storm.
Take a good look at the trees in your yard, especially those near your 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 doing your house no favors. Trim them so they are at least one to two feet 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 County 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.
CLEANING GUTTERS KEY
Fall brings many leaves and needles into your gutters – especially after a storm. If they aren’t cleared out, water can damage your house.
So with care. and using a ladder stand off for safety, clear out your gutters. While you’re at it check your downspouts. 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 2 feet away from your foundation, but up to 10 feet if needed.
CLEANING STORM DRAINS
This next reminder is more about your neighborhood than just your house: Keep an eye out for blocked storm drains on your streets.
City crews work hard to keep them clear but sometimes it takes a village to maintain a city.
Some folks even keep gloves and a rack or shovel in their car this time of
year to be prepared to help out in this way.
When the storm drains are plugged, water soon starts pooling, making driving and walking difficult and contributing to flooding that can affect homes.
ROOFS, WINDOWS AND DOORS
The four main areas that should be checked for weakness before storm season are the roof, windows, doors and garage doors.
During a windstorm, wind pushes against the outside of your home. The force of that wind is transferred from your roof and exterior walls through the interior walls to the foundation. If the energy of the wind is not properly transferred to the ground as designed, a home can sustain severe structural damage or failure. Our older housing stock does OK when there is interior sheathing on the walls, but failure does happen when there is a weak link, like foundation posts that are dry rotted or bug damaged.
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 retro-fit codes to ensure your health and safety. An assessment by a qualified home inspector or engineer isn’t a bad idea.
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 wind storm ravaging your home is greater than most other forms of natural devastation. What you may get and how much, greatly depends on your location, the orientation of your home, your proximity to trees and the age and 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 something as simple as roof truss straps is both inexpensive and effective.
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.
YIKES – A LEAK
Like wind, water is a very powerful force. And when it starts dripping or pouring into your house the amount of damage in a short time can be staggering.
We suggest you have tarps or thin plastic painters drops on hand. If you get a leak in your roof or your house – and especially if you get several, using a tarp as a funnel can protect your walls and floor.
This is what you can do: Tape that cloth right to the window or tape or us thumbtacks or staples to attach it to the ceiling – depending on where the leak is. Then create a funnel to direct all the water into a bucket or pail. You can even gather from multiple leaks in a fairly wide area – the whole ceiling in one room – and use a rubber band or twine to secure it so that it comes to
one point – above a pail. Water is capillary so each drop wants to stick to the next drop, so use that tendency to your advantage.
This tarp isn’t to hold water, it is just to guide and direct that water to the pail.
Once the storm is over, you’ll want to tackle the repair or call a contractor to help you fix it.
If you see any leaks in your basement walls, double check your downspouts from your roof to make sure they are conveying the water away from your foundation.
Sometimes in city settings, the water could be coming from your neighbor’s gutters and downspouts. Perhaps a friendly visit with an offer to help, can make a difference to both of you and your houses.
Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.
Do you have questions about home repair, remodeling or becoming a homeowner? Call us at 533-7828, or 1-866-533-7828, or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.