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Before Seasons Change – Prepare Your Home
By Phillip B. Burum
Today’s state-of-the-art new homes, materials, and new home communities are built to the highest safety standards in history. Yet, all homeowners should remain especially vigilant about protecting their investments in their homes when seasons change because the next few months pose the greatest risks for tumultuous environmental and weather events. It is not likely that you will wake up tomorrow morning after your house lands on a witch wondering if you are still in Kansas, but California is not immune to dramatic climate shifts and harsh weather patterns that could impact the comfortable living environment that you are currently enjoying. High winds, wildfires, severe storms that lead to flooding and earthquakes large and small are all issues that every Southern Californian accepts as a potential daily impact, especially as we transition from summer to fall and fall to winter.
Preparing a home for the change in seasons is crucial for the long-term enjoyment and use of a home. A small crack in the seal of a window or a single broken roof tile can lead to much more significant damage caused by a major weather event.
The first step in protecting one’s home is to carefully assess the home’s insurance coverage. Make sure the homeowner policy contains adequate coverage for losses incurred as the result of a natural disaster or extraordinary weather events. Remember, flooding and earthquake damage are generally not covered by standard homeowner’s policy but can be purchased separately and homeowners should consult with their insurance agents or brokers on the policies that will coordinate best with their existing coverages.
To ensure adequate coverage on their possessions, homeowners should inventory their belongings and assess their replacement values. Then, make detailed lists or videos of their belongings as documentation for the insurance company. Those lists and videos should be in a safe location such as a safe or a bank safety deposit box.
The next steps are to surveil the home and the property surrounding the home for risks. Start with your landscaping by inspecting your yard and remove all potential fire hazards such as dead and dying plants or limbs from trees or shrubs. Rain gutters and downspouts should be inspected, and any debris cleared to protect the home’s foundation from flooding and structural damage.
Patio furniture, trashcans, flowerpots, grills and other yard ornaments that can take flight during a major wind event should be secured or stored indoors. Items not generally stored in the winter months such as sheds, doghouses, playhouses, swing sets and/or boats should be carefully inspected for stability and likewise secured.
Roofs should be carefully inspected, especially for those in older homes. A secure roof is essential in preparing the house to withstand a severe weather event. A licensed contractor should check for the structural integrity of the roof system.
Once the roof passes inspection, fresh sealing should be applied around the home’s chimney or vent pipes to prevent water seepage. In older homes, homeowners should freshly seal windows, cracks, entry doors and garage doors because wind funneling through a house pushes upward, trying to lift its roof. Consider installing special storm shutters to cover windows. ‘Do-it-yourselfers’ can build their own sets of shutters out of three/quarter inch marine plywood or metal storm panels. Shutter panels for skylight windows will help protect the home from rainstorms accompanied by high winds.
For double doors, French doors and sliding patio doors that have no structural device between them, consider installing special hardware to more adequately secure the doors where they meet. Try bolts that fasten the door into the framing at the top and the bottom.
Once the home is protected inside and out, stock cupboards and closets with anything needed to sustain a major weather or seismic event such as battery-operated radios, multiple flashlights in case of power outages and plastic sheeting to cover exposed areas. Remember to fill drawers with new packages of live batteries.
Stock bottled water, canned foods and other non-perishable food items in your cupboards in case you’re trapped in your home for a while and can’t get out to the supermarket. Remember to stockpile blankets into your closets in case you lose electricity and/or gas service. Disaster planning does not have to be a lifestyle, but it should be taken seriously. For more tips and helpful information on preparation, visit www.ready.gov on the web.
For more information about the Building Industry Association or the American Dream of homeownership, visit www.biabuild.com.