Extensive damage from a flood can turn your life upside down. Here’s what you can do to keep that damage to a minimum.
The Hurricane Harvey images coming out of Houston are pretty terrifying. Between 14 and 15 trillion gallons of water have been dumped on the city already. Tens of thousands of people are seeking temporary shelter and hundreds of thousands of more have had their lives upended.
In situations like these, it’s natural to look at your own home and wonder what would happen if a flood hit your area.
Well, if you’re in a place that’s expecting Harvey-level kinds of water, there, unfortunately, isn’t much you can do besides pony up for flood insurance and start seriously considering a move. No amount of duct tape and plywood is going to stop four feet of rainfall.
But with lower levels of flooding, there’s plenty you can do to prepare your home and avoid mega-costly repair bills. That’s why we reached out to a whole host of home experts to get their best tips for DIY and low-cost flood prep.
1. Get air conditioner covers and rain guards
“Intense, wind-driven heavy rains can throw a wrench in the works, carrying projectiles and debris that can lodge inside your air conditioning system, making it essential to give your system a professional inspection post-storm. If you live in an area that frequently suffers heavy storms, you may wish to consider an air conditioner cover or rain guard. Designed or recommended by your manufacturer, these protective covers are created specifically to work in conjunction with HVAC systems, offering the proper amount of air circulation via ventilation holes.” —Richard Ciresi, Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning
Note: Ciresi strongly recommends that you go ahead and buy the actual equipment for this instead of trying find a DIY solution:
“If you’re thinking you’ll save a couple bucks and ‘do-it-yourself,’ think again. Covering your system with a makeshift board, plastic wrap, or garbage bag creates a hostile operational environment, voiding your warranty and allowing moisture and condensation to build-up and become trapped inside the system, where it can corrode and rust metal components, rot wire and rubber, and offer an attractive home for insects and critters.”
2. Find your shut-off valve
“Before the storm hits, make sure you know where the main shut-off valve is in your home and make sure it operates properly. Being able to turn off your water in an emergency is very important, as it will help prevent potential leaks and damage.” —Glenn Gallas, Mr. Rooter Plumbing
3. Take care of your backyard clutter
“Take time to trim trees and bushes of dead limbs or branches that may become airborne and cause damage to your house, pool equipment or screen enclosure. Patio furniture, toys, canvas awnings, patio umbrellas, grills, telescopic poles, and even some pool equipment can become dangerous projectiles. These can cause severe damage to surrounding property in heavy winds.
“Remove all possible unsecured items and store them indoors until the threat passes. Do not throw these items into the pool, where chemicals could damage the item and removal is difficult.” —Greg Sammel, Pinch A Penny Pool Patio & Spa
4. Cover your windows with plywood
“Plywood is an easy, affordable and protective solution for those who do not have shutters. Purchase 1/2-inch thick plywood for each window. Always make sure the plywood you purchase complies with any state inspection standards. Once you have the plywood in hand, you’re ready to start boarding up your windows on the exterior side of your house. Place the plywood over your window; it should cover your window adequately. Protect areas where wind can enter during hurricane season, plywood supplies go fast so be sure not to wait.” —Larry Patterson, Glass Doctor
5. Secure that plywood with steel clips
“Purchasing the plywood is half the battle. It is a common misconception that tape prevents windows from breaking. In order to adequately set the plywood into place carbon steel clips are recommended, which fastens the plywood inside your window casing. Carbon steel clips are available at any hardware store and take less time than drilling holes and securing the plywood with nails and screws. Clips give you a snug, solid fit and allow you to take down the plywood for storage and reuse later.
“The most popular brand of steel clips is Plylox. Simply cover the window with plywood, and then clip the plywood into the window casing. For windows that are 24×24 inches or smaller, only two steel clips are necessary.” —Larry Patterson, Glass Doctor
6. Clear your gutters and drains
“While you should always keep your gutters and downspouts clean, it’s particularly important to make sure nothing blocks flowing water during a storm. The water will want to go somewhere and if it’s not down and away, it’ll be in your roof and attic. Conduct a visual inspection of your gutters and downspouts to be sure nothing blocks the flow of water from your roof and away from your home. Also, all drains in your house should be kept clear to prevent basement or crawl space flooding.” —Glenn Gallas, Mr. Rooter Plumbing
7. Want to totally drain your pool? Think again
“Do not drain the pool completely. An empty pool is subject to “floating” or “popping” out of the ground due to lift pressure from excessive ground water. If you decide to lower the water level to help prevent overflowing, do not drain past the bottom of the skimmer, as running the pump dry can cause serious damage.” —Greg Sammel, Pinch A Penny Pool Patio & Spa
8. Install a surge protector to protect your appliances
“What most people might not realize when a storm hits is that kitchen appliances are at risk from electrical “surges” even though they’re located inside the house. A lightning strike, short-circuit, downed electrical pole or other causes can cause your home’s power voltage to soar to hundreds or thousands of volts. It lasts only a millisecond but can do some serious damage to your expensive kitchen appliances.
“While unplugging some appliances may be an option, purchasing a surge protector may be a better choice. This is a device intended to help protect electrical devices from voltage spikes caused by surges. These come in two main types:
- A box that plugs directly into a wall receptacle
- A strip with a power cord and multiple plug-in outlets
“Using one of these devices is the most efficient option, and is more practical than trying to manually unplug all of your appliances ahead of the storm. Unplugging your appliances 24 to 72 hour in advance is not practical for all appliances, as the food in your refrigerator will likely spoil, and your frozen foods will thaw. In addition, dishwashers and ovens are often directly wired to the electrical supply, so a consumer may not be able to ‘unplug’ those devices.” —Doug Rogers, Mr. Appliance
9. Get insurance
“Remembering to prepare your home insurance is a way to protect your future. Make sure your home has flood insurance, often a completely separate insurance policy than homeowner’s insurance. Every year, homeowners should make sure high-dollar items in the home purchased in the last year are added into their policy. Consider adding “guaranteed replacement cost” and increases in material costs to your homeowner’s policy.
“In addition to preparing an insurance policy, Rainbow International advises homeowners to also prepare their house in the event of a hurricane by checking for roof leaks, covering windows with storm shutters or plywood, installing straps to fasten the roof to the frame structure and reinforcing garage doors.” —Jeramy Sibley, Rainbow International
10. Insulate your water heater
“Hurricanes can cause leaks in your house that affect the consumption for your heating and air system, leading to high utility bills. Insulating your hot water heater saves energy by reducing heat lost through the sides of the water heater by 25-40%, which will help save you money on your energy bills. You can do this with an insulating blanket or insulation tubes.” —Glenn Gallas, Mr. Rooter Plumbing
Richard Ciresi is the owner of Aire Serv Heating & Air Conditioning of Louisville, Kentucky (@ASLouisville). Aire Serv is a global franchise company providing installation, maintenance, and repair of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and indoor air quality systems. With over thirty years of experience in both commercial and residential heating and air conditioning, Ciresi’s technicians now serve the communities of Indianapolis, Southern Indiana, Louisville and Lexington. His company is known for exceptional customer service, employing the most innovative technology and the widest selection of product lines to provide custom solutions with outstanding results.
Glenn Gallas began his career at Mr. Rooter Plumbing (@MrRooter) in Feb. 2000, as a franchisee in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Because of his success and achievements, he was offered the opportunity to become a Franchise Consultant before being promoted to Mr. Rooter Plumbing, Vice-President of Operations.
Larry Patterson is the owner of Glass Doctor (@GlassDoctorDFW) in Dallas, Texas. Glass Doctor is a global franchise company providing home and auto glass repair, maintenance and installation. Larry has been a franchisee/business owner of Glass Doctor since 2003, served on the company’s leadership council and was named Franchisee of the Year in 2011.
Doug Rogers joined Mr. Appliance (@mrappliance) in March 2004 as the vice president of operations and was later promoted to chief operating officer in June 2005. He was named president of Mr. Appliance in June 2006 and president of ZorWare, also known as Z-Ware, in February 2007. Doug has received several awards throughout his professional career. He was twice awarded Outstanding Contributor at Whirlpool Corporation, once in 1999 and again in 2003. He was also awarded the Presidents’ Choice Award at Dwyer Group in 2007.
Greg Sammel came to work at Pinch A Penny Pool Patio & Spa (@pinchapennypool) as a store clerk in 1985 and grew with the company. In 1998, he became a Field Service Specialist and holds a range of credentials including: APSP certified; APSP Business Leadership; National Swimming Pool Foundation CPO Instructor; and State of Florida Swimming Pool/ Spa Contractors license.
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