Does it feel like California is in the midst of a drought right now? Our state feels anything but dry this January, thanks to powerful rainstorms raging up and down the state. L.A. alone has received more than 13 inches of rain in four months — 216% of normal for this period, with San Francisco experiencing its seventh-wettest January on record to date. Homeowners hit hard by this winter’s epic drenching so far may be rejoicing at the momentary precipitation reprieve right now — but not for long. Another storm is scheduled to start next Wednesday for Northern Californians, and Friday for Southern Californians.
How can you use this break from the rainfall to better prepare your house for the next big statewide soaking? We think it’s high time for a refresher.
PUT YOUR HOUSE IN ORDER
1. No More Leaks
This is the time you’ll want to call your roofer to check for trouble spots and repair any old leaks. You’ll want to specifically pay attention to the metal flashing connection points — which is where most roof leaks occur. You can also make sure the flashing is free of debris; use your hose to make sure the flashing is directing water off the roof and into the gutters.
2. Gut the Gutters
Clean out your gutters and downspouts. Then clean them again. Also look for any breaks. Make sure the gutters are tight against the roofline. And while you’re at it, seal up any holes from cables and other wires that penetrate your exterior walls.
3. Pump It Up
With enough rain, groundwater can invade below-grade spaces such as basements and garages even with good drainage systems in place. To protect these spaces, it is recommended that you install a sump pump. If you already have a sump pump, make sure it’s been recently serviced by a plumber.
4. Paint It…Any Color
Cracks in exterior paint can carry water directly into the wood, opening the door to dry rot and termite invasion. This is the perfect time to break out the paint and get to work on covering the exterior wood trim of your home.
5. Window Dressing
The glazing compound around your windows may have shrunk and pulled away from the glass panes during the warmer, dryer summer months. Loosened panes can allow rain penetration. Check and recaulk as needed.
6. Slopeside Safety
This is also a great time to check your balcony and deck slopes. Make sure water flows away from the wall and into the drainage system.
SAFEGUARD YOUR YARD
7. No Drain, No Gain
Does your yard drain properly? For those of you who have replaced your lawn with a hardscape solution recently — such as rock or decomposed granite, you should be aware that the drainage pattern in your yard may have changed. (Water that once percolated through spongy grass will now flow.) Some landscape experts advise homeowners to place 3 to 4 inches of organic mulch in beds and areas where water will drain or collect. If ponding becomes a problem, consider increasing the percentage of your yard that can absorb rainwater. Changes to the landscape may also have changed your property’s grading. Consulting an irrigation and drainage specialist can short-circuit any serious problems a heavy storm might cause.
8. Forget the Sprinklers
It seems basic — but so basic that it’s easily forgettable. Make sure you turn off your automatic watering system… you may need it until spring.
9. Install Rain Barrels
Rain barrels at downspouts are a relatively inexpensive way to capture water coming off your roof for later use. This DIY project is fairly easy — just makes sure you direct any overflow from the barrels away from the house.
10. Don’t Be Out on a Limb
It’s important to have a certified arborist conduct a health check and risk assessment on your trees.
11. Swing for the Fences
Do you need to reinforce your fencing? Check to make sure you’ve stored or tied down anything that might blow and cause damage in high wind.
12. Protect Your Outdoor Furniture
Don’t forget to move your outdoor furniture indoors. If the furniture cannot be moved, place wood planks under the legs to lift them off the pavement. Cover glass-top tables with plywood secured with cord. Move potted plants to a sheltered area.
PREPARE FOR THE WORST, HOPE FOR THE BEST
13. Get Insured
Even if you’re not in a high-risk area, consider investing in flood insurance. Flood insurance is not generally covered by regular homeowner policies. By congressional mandate, FEMA, through its National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and along with industry partners, makes flood insurance available.
14. In Case of Emergency
Make sure you’ve stored emergency repair materials, such as sandbags, heavy plastic sheeting, concrete edgers and straw-waddle tubing, in a safe dry place. Place disaster supply kits — such as those from FEMA, the California Department of Water Resources and the Auto Club — in your home and car. FEMA, the National Weather Service, the California Department of Water Resources and the Auto Club are just a few of many organizations that list the important things to have on hand in a flood emergency.
15. Go Digital
Lastly, it’s also recommended that you secure all of your important documents — like your flood insurance — in the cloud or on a thumb drive.