Chances are good that if you’re not being hit by one of our nation’s droughts this summer, you’re being deluged with rainfall. A recent series of strong thunderstorms has swept throughout the United States, wreaking havoc upon homes in their path. While much of the resulting damage is easy to spot — broken windows, missing shingles, and flooded basements — some damage isn’t easy to find. And if those problems remain ignored, they may add up to serious bills later. Professional home inspector Thomas Kraeutler, president of HomeChek of New Jersey, Inc., provides the following helpful tips for detecting hidden damage after a storm:
Foundation failures. Foundations may become weak if water accumulations become heavy. You can check on yours by examining your outdoor and indoor walls, looking for any areas that are cracked or that bulge. If you don’t find any signs of damage, check again each week for the next several weeks. According to Kraeutler, water can wash out soil under the footings holding up your home, and it may not show up as a problem until months after the storm. As you’re examining your interior walls, look for cracks or doors that stick. These, too, are signs that your foundation may be damaged and that your house is shifting. And even if you’re next in line to Bob Villa, don’t attempt to make any foundation repairs yourself, Kraeutler advises. Instead, call an expert — such as a professional home inspector.
Flooded fixtures. Replace any electrical outlet, appliance, or furnace that has had exposure to flood waters. Contaminants in flood water may cause damage to very sensitive components of your electrical outlets and appliances, causing a malfunction, or far worse, an electrical fire. If your heating system has been flooded, Kraeutler says, call an expert heating and cooling contractor or home inspector to examine the system. You may be able to merely replace an individual part or two without having to purchase an entirely new unit.
Backstroke in the basement? If your basement now doubles as an indoor pool, first remove your (damaged) possessions, and run fans to dry the room. Then, Kraeutler says, take precautions to avoid future problems by surveying the outside of your home, looking for any loose or disconnected gutters and repairing any that you find. If you see any washed-out soil along your foundation walls, add clean fill dirt to the area, and make sure that you slope the dirt away from your house.
Gargantuan gusts. The winds from summer storms can cause more damage to a home than you might realize. Kraeutler advises that home owners look first at the ground level of their homes, checking for loose siding, metal trim, and loose soffits; leaks may result if any of those parts are loose or missing. Check your window panes for any signs of loosening, cracks, or breaks, and fix them when necessary. Examine your storm doors’ closers and safety chains to see if they’re bent or broken. Then get out your binoculars, and thoroughly examine your roof for missing shingles — an extremely common occurrence — or collapsed antennae. According to Kraeutler, the force of driving rain may push up underneath roof shingles and cause major leaks later. Also check your flashing around the chimney and plumbing vents; it may become loose. Loose flashing, too, may cause leaks.
Clean up: the fun begins. Most of don’t consider just how many contaminants are floating around in the flood waters inside our homes following a storm. That’s why it’s important to use strong disinfectants (you may also use one cup of Borax mixed in a bucket of hot water) on all surfaces of your home — floors, walls, and everywhere else. Be liberal. And remember to open up your windows and ventilate your rooms while you clean with these disinfectants, which usually fill your house and your lungs with potent odors.