How Can I Keep My Home Dry?

Angie Hicks
Written by Angie Hicks
Updated October 28, 2013
Downspouts
Clean gutters and clear downspouts are crucial to preventing water damage from rain. (Photo by Katelin Kinney)

Homeowners need to be proactive in protecting their homes before the rainy season.

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leaf-filled gutter on house
Cleaning your gutters of leaves and other debris once or twice a year will protect your home from water damage.

For the past couple of years, Geoff Kroll noticed that every time it rained, the gutters over the back of his Greenwood home would overflow and water would cascade down onto his deck in gallons. Eventually, the water worked its way into Kroll’s home, causing damage to the subfloor near his sliding glass door.

Concerned he needed to replace his gutters, Kroll called in a professional. Turns out, all he needed was a cleaning and to add a gutter leaf protection system.

“It was damaging my floor, so I was at the point to where I didn’t care; he could have told me that I needed new gutters and I would have put them up,” Kroll said.

Fortunately, for Kroll, he was able to determine what was causing the water damage to his home before it did even more damage. Other homeowners aren’t quite so lucky.

With the unpredictability of heavy rains in Indiana autumns, homeowners need to be proactive in protecting their homes from potential water damage. Water intrusion can quickly lead to wood rot and mold. Depending on the extent of damage, making repairs can cost anywhere from hundreds to tens thousands of dollars.

“Time is of the essence when water intrudes your home or your basement,” said John Kim, president of Elite Cleaning and Restoration Services in Indianapolis. “Water only needs 72 hours to have mold growth. If you find water that has intruded and don’t know exactly when it occurred, you want to make sure you call a professional out who (has an Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification).

Kim said the majority of calls his company receives are from homeowners whose basements are flooded after a heavy storm in which their sump pump failed. Adding a battery-powered backup sump pump offers an additional layer of protection from water damage, should you experience a power outage from a storm. Kim also recommends homeowners check their insurance coverage to ensure it includes a sump pump failure clause.

You should also have your gutters cleaned and inspected twice a year to minimize your risk for water damage. Clogged gutters and downspouts like Kroll’s can cause major water damage and quickly.

How you landscape around your home can also have a major impact on whether or not water will cause damage. Design your landscaping grade so water slopes away from the home’s exterior, rather than towards it, said Peter Reynolds of Waterford Landscaping in Indianapolis.

“The one thing we always recommend to homeowners is if we’re going to change the grade, we need to raise it up just enough to get the water away from the home,” Reynolds said. “The biggest mistake is making the landscaping too high around the home. You want to create a slope away from the home, but you don’t want to raise it up against the siding or above the sill plate — where the foundation stops and the wood framing starts — because it will trap moisture inside the walls and give you more issues with water inside the home.”

If you discover your home has water damage — which is often indicated by stains or mold spots appearing on ceilings and walls — the key is to quickly find the source of the trouble.

“Before you decide to do something extremely invasive, such as digging out around the foundation and putting in a basement waterproofing system, it’s important to eliminate all the simple barriers around the home that could be manifesting the water problem, like the downspouts and the grading,” Reynolds said.

Kim recommends homeowners walk around the homes and visually inspect vulnerable areas before the rains hit.

“Visual inspections could prevent a ton of headaches in the future,” Kim said. “Make yearly checks around the windows and seals. Make sure everything is caulked, and critters and animals haven’t decided to bore holes in screens and stuff like that.”

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on September 24, 2011.

Angie Hicks is founder of Angie’s List. Have a question for her team? Email askangie@angi.com or tweet to #AskAngie. Follow her @Angie_Hicks.

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