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Preparing your home for El Niño

El Niño is expected to hit Southern California very soon. To help out homeowners in Alhambra, the Source talked with experts at Home Depot and roofing contractors to collect tips on preparing your house for the stormy season ahead. 

Forecasts say we will soon be greeted by one of the strongest El Niño seasons in history. This might be good news for some drought-weary residents, but not for homeowners who may have some issues with their houses. What compounds the problem is that many roofers are booked up until next year. “After the rain, people start calling,” said Richard Sanchez, the owner of Sanz Construction, Inc. Sanchez has been working as a construction contractor in Alhambra for 32 years. He said he is booked up through the end of this year. Many other roofing companies are also swamped with orders from homeowners, the Pasadena Star News reported in Oct.

Roofers repair house | Photo by Percita via Flickr

Sanchez said homeowners usually overlook their roofs, gutters and drainages during the summer time, when it is the best season to call up a roofer to inspect and repair. “Even before summer time is good to redo your roof,” he said. However, people usually choose to spend their budget on painting walls and decorating their houses. “People notice the rain is coming, but they save it for the last minute,” Sanchez said, “People need to prioritize what is important. For me it is the roof.”

Maria Perez, a long-time Alhambra resident, agrees with Sanchez. She spent $10,000 on repairing her roof recently. “It was leaking last year. So I renovated the entire roof for El Niño this year,” she said. But not every resident has thought about inspecting and repairing their houses until the rain has already arrived.

What should those homeowners do now? Is it too late to make fixes?  Here are seven tips and emergency measures that homeowners may apply to their houses.

1. Residents should put their homes through an inspection. They can either find an independent building inspector to do the job, which costs around $200 to $300 for a basic full report, or go to Home Depot for free. “We offer service to send someone from Home Depot to check out the roof. It is a free estimate,” said Joe Tellez, assistant store manager at Home Depot's Figueroa store. Among the services offered for free at Home Depot, there is the estimate service that Tellez mentioned, as well as a general report of damage, an estimate of labor costs and some of the materials that customers may need.

Roofers | Photo by Ghary Dean via Flickr

2. Hire a contractor or independent constructor to clean out any obstructions on the roof, especially when it is a flat one. “I've seen tennis balls and piles of leaves that plug the drains,” Sanchez said. He added that leaves are among the worst offenders, because they "can turn into dirt after they've decayed. They will eat up the roof material.” You can hire a gardener to blow off the leaves on the roof, but some gardeners don’t have the proper insurance that will cover them if they fall off the roof. “That’s not a gardener’s job. If the gardener fell off, it’s the owner’s responsibility,” Sanchez said. But you do need to hire a gardener or arborist to trim or even remove the branches and trunks in the yard; strong winds may sweep up these objects and throw them against windows.

3. Clear the debris in your gutter and downspouts to ensure proper drainage away from your home and its foundation. Many stucco homes have tar paper inserted into the walls to absorb water that has gotten through the stucco. But many old stucco houses that were built decades ago in Alhambra don’t have the paper, which means it is much more important to make sure that the drainage directs water away from your walls. If there are cracks on the stucco house, the overflowing water from the gutter could drench into the stucco. “It would become mold and you will have whole different issues with your house,” said Sanchez.

Downpour | Photo by Jonathan Parker-Jones via Flickr

4. You need to pay attention to the leaks around your windows. This is especially true if you've just remolded them, as a remolding job can sometimes go awry without you knowing it. “It is very rare but it does happen sometimes,” said Sanchez. Don’t be worry if you find leaks around your windows. You can simply go to any hardware store and buy some elastomeric paint to stop the water from penetrating the leaks.

5. Patching and temporary plastic sheets can possibly save your house from a rainy day. You can avoid leaks by patching your roof with wet patch, or simply cover it with plastic sheets. You should be careful when climbing onto your roof if you decide to go the DIY route. Never go onto your roof when it’s raining and windy. “If you ever try to open a piece of plastic on a rainy day, the wind will drag you off the roof like a parachute,” said Sanchez.

Homeowner covers roof with plastic sheet | Photo by Robbie Sproule via Flickr

6. Make sure the sump pump in your basement is working. Install a battery-operated backup just in case there is a power failure. If you don’t have a sump pump, you should hurry to Home Depot or any hardware store to buy one. It is one of the best-selling items during El Niño season, and may be increasingly hard to find as the stormy season progresses. “Sand bag, ladder, sump pump and tar are always in high demand when rain comes,” said Tellez. These items may be at risk of selling-out when El Niño is in full force.

Sump pumps at Home Depot | Photo by Leo Wu

7. Make sure the roofer is certified and insured, and don’t skip the background checks. Moreover, find a local contractor, because the rates will be less.

And if you don't have the budget or time to do inspections and repairs? It might be a good time to stock up on buckets, as they can help keep your carpet clean! 

If you have any suggestions and experience about how to deal with heavy rain in El Niño season, please comment below. We’d like to hear from you.

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