Getting Your Home Ready For El Nino

JLC Inspections provides certified consulting for the Indoor Air Quality Industry but is also a certified expert in forensic water intrusion and consulting as it relates to preventative measures in helping avoid water damage to the interior of the home. Mold and bacteria issues are just a few problems surrounding excessive moisture inside the home.

Water is the most destructive force in nature as it relates to monitory damages. Climatologist predict a 90%+ chance that El Niño will hit us hard this winter and that people should get ready. Most homes in California are not ready for heavy rains. Most people do not do the basic yearly maintenance needed to make sure they avoid moisture intrusion into the interior of their homes. Poor exterior drainage, grading of soil and hillside slopes, gutter maintenance or lack of a gutter system, and sealing of exterior penetrations are common items that are overlooked. Since California, especially Southern California, gets so little rain on a normal basis, most people do not think about getting prepared for the abnormal conditions brought to us by an El Nino. I am still finding mold issues in client’s homes from the water damage that occurred during the heavy rains of late 2010 and early 2011.

I have listed some basic items to look out for and maintenance items that should be reviewed and repaired. You should always consult with a professional if you are not able to do the work yourself. If you are reading this article and you have already experienced water intrusion and damage, call me at 949-702-4221, you may need to get an assessment done to identify the scope of the damage.

It is not advisable to call a water or mold remediation company to do an assessment on your home, you may end up with someone that has a completely different agenda than someone like JLC Inspections that has only one agenda in mind, to help you identify the damage and potential health concerns, we do not do restoration work, we write the scope of work for the restoration companies.

I always point my clients to my web site to listen to my 5 videos about the indoor air quality industry and how to avoid scammers and companies with false claims of certification, I will do the same with you. Go to www.jlcinspections and listen to all 5 of my videos PLEASE, you will not be sorry you did. Here are a few recommendations to get ready for the rain.

 

  1. Roof inspection: It does very little good to do everything you can on the outside without identifying and fixing leaks or potential areas of moisture intrusion from the roof. Most people will need a roofing contractor to help with this. If you have not been trained how to walk on a roof, it is likely you will do more harm than good. Cement, clay, tin, fiberglass (to name a few) are very easy to damage when walked on. Cracking a cement tile roof may also damage the felt under it which will then cause a leak. If you still insist on getting on the roof, here are a few items to look for.
  • Gutters, if you do not have gutters, shame on you. This is the best money you can spend on your home. Think about this. All of the water that hits your roof now runs down, hits the ground and splashes up onto your stucco and wood siding. Stucco is the world’s largest sponge. It will over time penetrate the stucco and then come inside your home. Can you SPELL MOLD. That is what it will eventually cause if you don’t prevent it.
  • If you do have a gutter system, make sure it is clear, no debris. Clogged drains are like not having drains at all. Clear the drains and make sure to seal the caps and joints with a high grade polyurethane caulking.
  • Make sure your gutter downspouts go directly into a drain, or onto a cement surface and to a drain or to the street.
  • Valley flashings with roof tiles placed too close together covering the valley will cause debris to get caught between the tiles and stop water from flowing properly, causing water to get pushed into the roof system, clean the valleys.
  • Clear all excessive debris from your roof, everything!!
  • Cut back tree limbs from overhanging or touching the home structure, remember the wind will be blowing as well and can cause damage if tree limbs are hitting the home.
  • Seal all vent pipes at the jack flashings (flashing around the vent pipes)
  • Seal cracked tiles with a high grade polyurethane caulking.
  • Seal chimney flashings with a high grade polyurethane caulking.
  • If you have skylights, check them as well for cracks and flashings and make sure to seal with a high grade polyurethane caulking.
  1. Poor grading, soils issues: High soil levels around the perimeter of the home is one of the largest problems with moisture intrusion into homes that I have seen in the 15 years I have been performing inspections and this is not just a rain related problem. Poor drainage and sprinklers hitting the home is also “moisture” and it is year round and ongoing. Soil levels should be 4 to 6 inches below the weep screed (steel plate at the bottom of a stucco wall) of the home. If it is covering the weep screed or very close to it, you may already have a problem, and the rain is going to make it much worse. Remove the soil and make sure grading is away from the wall and to a drain.
  • Grading of the rear yard. If you have a hill behind you make sure you have retaining walls that can handle the water flow. Installing drains on the soil side of the retaining wall is highly advised. Slippage in hills is very common during big rains, this may need a professional to review your yard and get recommendations.
  • Yard drains. If you are someone that has yard drains, make sure they work and are clear otherwise they are just holes in the ground. Make sure landscaping or cement is pitched towards the drains. Water does not know where the drains are, you have to point the water in the right direction.
  • Cement covering the weep screed: Again, a weep screed is a steel plate at the base of a stucco wall. The entire purpose of a weep screed is to allow water that penetrates a stucco wall a way out. Keep in mind that stucco is a massive sponge. If you saturate that sponge over and over again the building paper (vapor barrier) will in time break up or disintegrate and allow any future moisture into the drywall of your home. When the weep screed is covered by cement such as a slab or walkway, it helps push water into the interior walls of your home. Most contractors still don’t get this because this is the most common mistake I see when I am performing inspections and 75% of the time it has already caused moisture problems inside the home resulting in a favorable environment for microbial growth (mold and bacteria). If this sounds like something that has happened around your home then it is advisable to have the interior walls checked by a Council-Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant (www.acac.org) (www.jlcinspections.com)
  1. Exterior penetrations: What this means is anything that penetrates the exterior structure such as light fixtures, pipes, light switches and outlet covers, wires (etc) should be sealed with a high grade polyurethane caulking. I know most of us do not think of our homes as a boat, but if we did wouldn’t we want to fill any open holes or gaps in the exterior to stop potential leaks? Thinking this way may keep you from having a leak.
  • Door frames, window frames and flashings should be sealed at the stucco and or wood siding with a high grade polyurethane caulking.
  • If it looks like it could leak “seal it”.
  • Many of us have cracking in the stucco. Most cracks are consistent with the expansive soil here in California and are not very large but in some cases get very large requiring repairs. Depending on the size of the crack, it is possible that the vapor barrier or building paper has been cracked or torn as well. As I mentioned above this paper is what keeps water from getting to the interior walls of your home causing mold and bacteria issues. Bottom line, fill all cracks large and small. I personally believe that silicon based high grade polyurethane caulking is best. When it is pushed deep into the crack it has a better chance of sealing the crack than a stucco patch that will crack again at the next ground movement.
  • Patio covers believe it or not can also be a source of moisture intrusion. The main board that is connected to the structure is called a “ledger”. If this was not installed properly with a flashing inserted into and behind the stucco above the ledger, then it is possible that water will enter between the ledger and stucco, find its way to the bolt holes that connect it to the wall and into the interior wall the water flows. If you are one of the people that had a contractor do this then the fix is not desirable. Sealing the top side of the ledger to the stucco is the next best fix but must be maintained yearly, and yes high grade polyurethane caulking is best. Please call me if you have questions. Please go to my web site and listen to my 5 videos that educate you about the indoor air quality industry. 949-702-4221 or 949-735-1982 www.jlcinspections.com