Storm season is here, and it is time to think about protecting your home from storm damage. Unlike with devastating tornadoes, which shred everything in their path, there are steps you can take here in Greenwich to keep your family safer and minimize storm damage to your property. Some preparations involve expert help, while others are simple, do-it-yourself projects.
Here are some tips:
1. Prune your trees.
- How do you prune trees for storm preparation? Think of tree canopies as giant sails. Poke holes into a sail; a.k.a. prune your trees, to let wind pass through and vastly reduce wind pressure against your trees. Be careful, however, not to over-prune your trees -- since trees need their leaves for food production. You want your "green giants" to be super-healthy with lots of strength and flexibility. This is work for a qualified arborist!
- Trees often grow at a slant. Those that overhang driveways and/or lean toward your house should have the limbs trimmed that face your driveway and/or house. In other words, create less weight toward potential trouble zones.
2. Drainage is perhaps the most overlooked property management tool that every homeowner has. Spending money on underground, out-of-sight installations, such as drains, is no fun at all. But think of drain lines as the arteries in your body: they are the hidden transport systems that make things flow smoothly. You want a good, well-distributed system with good flow. Just like blockages in your body result in big problems, so do blockages in your drainpipes.
Most homeowners clean their gutters on a regular basis. Have you ever cleaned your underground drainage lines? What condition are your drainage lines in? Debris could have gotten into them, roots could have grown into them. Call up a sewer and drain company to inspect (they send little cameras through the lines) and "vac out" your drain line -- it is a must-do storm preparation.
Walk your property after the next rain. Where does water pond? Is there a pitch on your property? Be sure the grading of your land does not trap water and pitches water away from your house and other structures --including your neighbors' structures -- as well as away from trees. Even minor regrading has big payoffs during big rainstorms.
We all remember seeing many, usually healthy trees being taken down and their roots pulled out of the ground. This does not have to happen. It occurs when water is allowed to pond around tree roots. It turns the soil into a soft sponge, and tree roots no longer have anything to anchor into.
Everyone can dig a ditch. That's what you want to do at the designated low spot on your property. Create a dry well. Fill it with crushed stone, top it with filter fabric and, finally, soil. It won't be visible, but you now have a basin for water to collect in rather than the other available tub, otherwise known as your basement!
3. Recent storms have made clear just how much today's lives depend on electric power, which means a generator is no longer a luxury -- it is essential considering the long power outages of late. Generators are smart investments -- that's one home improvement that builds value in your home today!
Less expensive, portable generators failed in Hurricane Sandy. They run on gasoline -- lots of gasoline (up to a gallon/hour). Many people could not get to a gas station during the first few days, followed by long hours spent in gas lines from those gas stations that even had gas.
What's a better choice? Permanently installed generators -- although they are expensive and take time to install! Permits and a variety of trades people have to be pulled together to install them. This takes planning -- and it takes time. Installing a properly sized permanent generator will generally range in cost from $10,000 to $25,000, depending on house size and the number of devices to be run. Note: the biggest price swing comes from adding air-conditioning, which may be important for elderly residents, for example.
Here is a bit of good news: Get a generator for less than the cost of your monthly cable bill. Give yourself a generator using creative financing solutions. Banks are once again lending Helocs (Home Equity Lines of Credit) to homeowners who have equity in their homes.
There are several programs to choose from and here is an example for a $20,000 generator installation:
Interest-only loan: Pay $58/month with a 3.5 percent interest rate
10-year pay-back period: Pay $212/month with a fixed-rate 4.9 percent loan
5-year pay-back period: Pay $370/month for a fixed-rate 4.9 percent loan
One final personal note: While it is wonderful to have a generator during outages to run the house, the constant generator noise wears on you after about two days. I recommend buying the quietest generator on the market! Make it easy on your neighbors, too!
We are likely going to have another powerful storm. The only question is when and will you be prepared! Start today and give yourself peace of mind!