Major storm events caused chaos all over the country in 2016, with damaging hail in the South and Midwest and record-breaking floods from the Southeast to the Southwest. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say that climate change is making rainfall events, like the historic, multi-billion-dollar flooding disaster that struck southern Louisiana in August 2016, much more likely today than in the past.1
Even though severe weather events like these are on the rise, you can still do a lot to make sure your home is sealed and protected from top to bottom. Maintain Your Roof
Your roof is your home's first line of defense against rain. It's also the first thing you or a contractor should check during a seasonal preventative maintenance assessment.
But before you hop up on a ladder and on your roof, head up in to your attic to look for water stains or discoloration on the underside of your roof decking. Be sure to thoroughly inspect areas around any roof penetrations, such as venting and chimneys.
Unless you're very experienced on ladders and roofs, you probably want to hire a roofing contractor to inspect the roof itself. They can gauge the wear on your shingles, noting any broken or curling sections. They can also make sure vent caps are fastened, flashing is sealed, and shingles are secured against strong winds.
Be sure to tell your contractor about any issues you discovered in the attic so they can inspect those areas especially carefully. If your contractor finds any damage, they can repair it to prevent leaks before storm season is upon you. Prepare Against Lightning Damage
Lightning strikes near or to your home can cause external power surges - or worse, fires that can severely damage your home, along with your electronics and electrical equipment. Making a few simple investments in electrical safety can prevent and protect against most damage from lightning strikes, with costs varying based on the size of your house and the scale of protection you implement.
Protect Against Hail
- Basic Prevention: Surge Protectors. Not all power strips provide surge protection. Some power strips are just extensions of your wall outlet. To make sure you're getting protection for your electronic equipment, use only those that have been tested to UL 1449 with a joule rating of more than 1,000 and a clamping voltage rating of at least 330 volts.2 The joule rating will be listed on the surge protector.
- Better Protection: Whole Home Surge Protection. For even more peace of mind, consider having an electrician install a whole-home surge protection system. While these will not protect against a direct lightning strike, they will provide a great first guard for major power surges.
- Best Defense: Lightning Protection System. Having a lightning protection system (commonly known as lightning rods) installed on your house will harness and safely ground currents from lightning strikes. The system receives the strike and redirects it harmlessly into the ground. Lightning protection systems should be installed by a UL-listed installer and meet the standards of the Lighting Protection Institute (LPI).
Hailstorms can be unpredictable and notoriously damaging. If you live in a hail-prone area, you may want to consider making some of these precautionary upgrades to lessen hail damage during the next major storm:
Don't Forget the Foundation
- The shingles of an impact-resistant roof can provide better protection from high winds, hail, and flying debris during major storms, and might also help you save on your insurance. They're rated Class 1, 2, 3, and 4 with Class 4 being the most impact-resistant roof currently available.3
- If your home doesn't have covered parking, a specialty hail blanket could provide some limited protection during especially bad storms.
- Create temporary shelters with tarps and stakes to protect spring vegetables and tender flowers. Shield potted plants under buckets weighted down with stones.
If your basement or crawlspace has any leaks, get them sealed up as soon as possible before they can cause any major damage.
You can prevent future leaks by assessing your gutters and yard. Are your downspouts fitted with elbows so water draining out of the gutters doesn't pool at your foundation? Is your yard properly graded so that water runoff is directed away from your home? If grading is a problem, contact a landscaping professional or foundation specialist for help.
Re-grading to direct runoff away from your home should prevent most basement and foundation leaks. However, you need to seal any cracks in your foundation walls, and consider waterproofing the interior walls of your basement or crawl space.
Other Steps to Stop Storm Damage
- Clean your gutters. Even a roof in good repair can leak if gutters are clogged with debris that keeps them from directing water runoff away from your home. Be sure to keep your gutters, drains, and downspouts clear of leaves.
- Seal up leaks. Inspect the sealant around your windows, doors, and places where utility pipes enter the exterior walls of your house. If it is cracked or shrinking, use a urethane-based caulk to seal cracks and prevent water intrusion.
- Consider installing a backflow valve. If your home is in or near a flood plain, there is a chance that municipal sewer lines and storm water drains will exceed capacity during heavy storms. A backflow valve installed on your home's main sewer line will shut in the event of sewer backup.
- Know your flood risk. FEMA's flood maps are constantly being redrawn to reflect new data. Look up your address on FEMA's Flood Map Service Center to find flood maps for your area and stay educated about your home's flood risks.
With your home well-fortified against seasonal storms, you'll be able to relax and breathe deeply this spring.