For four years we have worried about the lack of rain and increased our conservation efforts. Today lawns everywhere are dead, or hanging on by a thread.
Weather experts now say that there’s a 90% chance of an El Niño winter ahead. Not only that, but they expect it to be a doozy.
My suspicion is that most of us are not really ready for all that water and the flooding that may ensue, so I wanted to suggest a little preparation for the rainy season (and the deepest hopes that it will refill our reservoirs and aquafers). Here are a few suggestions from me, based on decades of attending home inspections:
- If it’s been more than 3 years since your roof was inspected, get a roof inspection done now, during the dry season. (Use a licensed roofing contractor to do it, not a handyman.) It’s better to do it before you discover a leak, and it’s better to do it before the roofers are booked out a few weeks! The cost is probably going to be around $100 – $150. Most homes need “tune up” work every few years, and that’s normal, so have the inspection understanding that some of your vent pipes may need resealing, a few shingles may need replacing, or other small items may require adjustment or repair. If the roof is younger, that’s all it should be. The old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” applies here.
- Make sure that the grading around your house or townhouse is correct and that the land slopes toward the yard & away from your home. Grading is incorrect a lot of the time – I probably see my home inspector write that up more than half the time. It matters because the water that comes down will follow the slope of the soil and you do not want it aimed at your structure. You want the water to go away from your home.
- Your downspouts should direct the water away from the house, ideally 6′ or more. This is super important, as the entire surface of your roof collects water and pushes it off through just a few openings, and in heavy rains this is a ton of water! You do not want it lingering near your foundation because our clay soils are expansive when wet and that puts unfriendly pressure on foundations and may cause cracking and the exposure of the rebar inside to moisture. That rebar is important for the foundation’s strength, and if it rusts, the integrity of the foundation is at risk. So protect the whole system by getting the water away from the home.
- If you have a drainage system, make sure that the grates over it are cleared of leaves to allow the water to filter into it.
- If you have a sump pump, consider upgrading from the standard type that operates on electricity only to one that works with a battery backup. In really big storms, we can lose power and then the regular sump pump won’t work, just when you need it most! If you already have a battery backup, consider keeping a replacement battery on hand.
- Most Silicon Valley homes have power lines rather than underground utilities. Have a look at yours, if applicable, and see if there are tree branches too close to the lines. Often P, G & E will trim them for free if you spot a problem and let them know.
- Do keep spare batteries, water, food, medicines, and other essentials on hand in case of a prolonged power outage. I recommend getting cell phone or other electronic device battery backups. Again, if you’re out of power for 3 days, you may need something to juice up your mobile phone! I have a couple of these “bricks” but my favorite is called a PowerStrip and it has a solar charger.
- If you are in an area which is heavily wooded, or the access to your home is heavily wooded, consider purchasing power tools to clear trees that may fall on your route. Being able to get in and out is crucial in case of an emergency.
Due to an avalanche of spam comments, I have had to turn off comments on this blog, but if you think I have missed anything, please email me and I will edit this article to help others be better prepared for the rains that we hope and pray are coming soon.