Excerpt from my regular column in the Santa Barbara News-Press.
Regardless of how you may feel about the politically hot issue of global warming and if the burning of carbon based fuels is permanently altering our climate, I personally have a feeling that our 4+ year drought is going to end with a bang this winter. Though I am not a true local and have only lived in good old Santa Barbara for 40 years, I don’t ever remember a summer where we had a real rainstorm in June and these monsoonal cloud patterns throughout July and August. My fishermen friends tell me that the water temps in the channel are so warm that tropical fish like Dorado are now being caught in local waters. Predicting the weather seems to me to be part science, part intuition and a good measure of luck, and I think it is likely that we are going to experience a very wet winter this year. After so many years of dry weather, it has been easy to postpone weather related home maintenance and here are a few issues that homeowners should address while we still have a month or two of summer left on the calendar.
Leaking Roofs: A roof only leaks when it rains and if you have been putting off repairing or replacing a worn out or leaking roof, trying to get a roofing contractor to return your call after El Nino arrives while be less likely than trying to call the IRS on April 14th. Now is the time to take action if your roof has leaked in the past or if your roof has exceeded the recommended life of the manufacturer of the roofing shingles. If your roof shingles are starting to look frayed or have been damaged by wind, it is probably time for a new roof. Now is the time to call a roofing contractor.
Leaking Skylights: If your home has sky lights and you see any sign of water damage or water stains when you look up at the sky light, then you need to call a roofing contractor. Most sky lights are constructed sort of like a Tupperware lid that fits down over a metal frame that is water sealed often with a rubber of plastic seal or gasket. If any water is passing through this seal, then a roofing contactor needs to lift the skylight off the roof, check the integrity of the metal flange and rubber seal, and make any needed repairs or install new parts. Climbing up onto the roof and trying to seal the skylight with silicon or tar is a waste of time and a good way to take a bad fall.
Rain gutters: The purpose of rain gutters is to move rain water away from your house ideally to an area where the natural slope of the ground carries the water away to a street, stream or storm drain. When the soil around your home becomes overly saturated, a home can experience moisture damage to the exterior walls, water can flow under a cement slab and enter the home via foundation cracks, or your crawl space or basement can flood. Now is the time to make repairs to your gutters and to make sure that they are securely fastened to the rafter tails or eve fascia boards. It your gutters were installed using aluminum spikes, these spikes often work their way loose over time and should be replaced with long threaded screws that can be purchased at the hardware store. If your yard is graced with mature trees that shed leaves onto your roof, cleaning the gutters can wait until late fall before rains may arrive unless you live in a wild fire zone in which case your gutters should always be kept free of leaves.
Paint: Painting a house is one of the easiest maintenance chores to postpone but if your siding and trim is cracking and any bare wood is exposed it is time for paint. Ideally a house should be prepped and painted every 8-10 years. The primary purpose of a coat of house paint is to protect a home from the relentless eroding forces of sun, wind and rain. If your home’s protective layer of paint is in bad shape, you possibly will need the services of both a carpenter and painter after your home is subjected to another winter of wet weather. Homes with siding made from manufactured wood products are especially prone to water damage as even the smallest amount of moisture will cause these wood products to swell and crack.
Surface Drainage: If you are fortunate to have a home that is built on a slight slope and has natural drainage make sure all surface drains or swales are free of leaves and dirt so you are not out working in the storm with a shovel and rake. If your home is on a flat lot with poor drainage you may need sand bags to prevent water from entering your garage or house during extended down pours. Your neighborhood fire station usually makes sand bags available free of charge when bad weather arrives.
Sump Pumps: Basements and crawl spaces under older homes can be prone to flooding and are often equipped with a sump basin and a submersible electric pump. Now is the time to check to make sure the sump is free of dirt and crude and that the pump is working correctly. December of 2011 was the last really wet month we had and I was fortunate enough to purchase the last available sump pump in Santa Barbara for a customer whose pump had failed and their basement was quickly filling with water. Test the pump by running a garden hose into the basement and make sure the pump turns on and the drain line is intact. A submersible pump needs to be plugged into a GFI protected outlet and always be very aware of the potential for electrocution if you have to enter a flooded basement.
Be Prepared is a good motto to live by and with a little preparation and planning your home will do just fine when and if our old friend El Nino returns to Santa Barbara this winter.
Owner, YourHandyman & Construction
CA License #935259