The winter rains have begun here in the Pacific Northwest, and that means water—and water can wreak havoc on your house. Just ask Kevin, our founder and Licensed General Contractor, who has become an expert in repairing residential water damage.
If you’re like me, your natural inclination when it rains is to huddle inside with a cup of tea, a cat, and a competition show. (My current favorites are The Great British Baking Show and The Great Interior Design Challenge—both British and on Netflix). But Kevin says that the best way to protect your home from water damage is to inspect your property in the rain, or right afterward when the water is still flowing.
“Water follows the path of least resistance, so you want to make sure nothing interrupts its flow away from the house,” says Kevin, whose rainy day inspection list includes these questions:
•Where are your downspouts located and is water flowing freely from them?
Leaves and evergreen needles are frequent water damage culprits. They can plug gutters or gutter guards, bypassing downspouts and forcing water onto the roof or trim where water can enter the house.
Downspouts should move water away from the foundation. At a minimum, plastic splashguards are required at the end of downspouts. Ideally, drainage pipes should carry water ten feet from the structure.
•Is the roof free of debris?
Leaves and needles can pile against skylights, vent pipes and chimneys creating dams that force water under shingles and into the home.
•Are the weep holes in vinyl windows clogged?
The small vents just below the tracks on vinyl windows can get clogged with dirt and wick water inside near a windowsill. They can be easily unclogged with a small screwdriver or nail file.
•Are siding, foundation vents, exterior stairs, and decks free from dirt and leaves?
Dirt and leaves in contact with exterior surfaces for long periods of time can trap moisture and cause rot.
Even after deciduous leaves have fallen, evergreens drop needles and branches with each storm, which means that clearing gutters and cleaning off roofs, stairs, and decks of homes, garages, outbuildings, and sheds, is an ongoing winter activity. Make sure to perform these tasks only when surfaces are free from ice and conditions are safe.
•Where does your runoff go?
Runoff should lead away from your home and other buildings, including neighboring homes, on the way to the road or culverts. If runoff appears to be veering off course, check for obstructions: mud, rocks, leaves, and clear the problem with a shovel or rake.
If runoff leads toward your home or outbuildings instead of away, try to divert its course and check with a professional about proper grading and drainage options.
•Are there signs of water intrusion inside?
Mold in the attic, stains on the ceiling, or mushy wallboard all indicate the presence of water.
Warner says most water damage is caused by the common problems mentioned above, as well as improperly installed flashing, though it can take some detective work to pinpoint the source.
“The bad news is that water can enter the house a long way from where it shows up, and small leaks into areas with insulation, like attics, can go on for years before they’re discovered,” says Kevin. “But the good news is that once we know the problem, we can repair it and prevent it from happening again.”
Kevin uses moisture meters and infrared cameras to pinpoint the cause of leaks, something that sets Yellow Ribbon Homes apart from other companies, and allows us to diagnose troublesome cases that save homeowners time and money by making sure the right repairs are made.
Next time it rains, head outside for a little weatherproofing before you settle in with a cat and a blanket. And if you’re local, please contact us if you need help locating the source of a leak or repairing water damage.