TRENTON, N.J. -- Repairing your home after a storm like Sandy can be a physical and financial challenge but there are improvements you can make that won’t ruin your back or break the bank.
Show your numbers
- Visible address numbers on a house exterior, street curb or mailbox make a difference in an emergency. Larger numbers are easier to see at night or during bad weather. After a disaster, a visible address helps inspectors locate damaged property.
Caulk it up
- Use caulk to seal all exterior openings, such as holes where wires, cables and pipes enter or exit a structure. (Seventy-four mph winds can blow water about 4 feet up a wall.) In severe storms, a well-sealed exterior helps to keep out wind-driven rain and overland flooding.
- Caulk helps prevent heat and cooling loss around windows and doors; it can be used in high-moisture areas indoors or outdoors.
- Some types of caulk can last up to 20 years. Once available only in polyurethane and silicone forms, caulk now comes in many non-toxic varieties that are specifically designed for a myriad of home repair jobs.
Keep gutters, troughs and downspouts clean
- Well-maintained gutters and downspouts can double or triple the life of a roof drainage system, keep water from getting inside a structure and prevent ground saturation around the foundation.
- Clear gutters and downspouts of leaves, twigs and sediment buildup so water flows freely down and out. Consider installing mesh leaf guards over gutters. Note that even gutters with mesh barriers can have debris buildup because composition roofs are known to shed shingle granules that can lead to silt buildup.
- Gutter clogs accelerate rust and often force water to spill over the edges and down onto foundation walls. From there, water can leak into crawl spaces or basements instead of properly draining away from a structure.
Elbow a way around
- Elbows and drain sleeves keep rainwater from eroding foundations. Add an elbow or drain sleeve to the bottom of downspouts to help divert runoff from crawl spaces or basements.
- Elbows can be made of aluminum or flexible heavy plastic tubing to fit round or square downspouts. The flexible variety is effective if water must be diverted some distance away from a structure.
Block that splash
- Place splash blocks directly under the lower end of a downspout to stem soil erosion and divert water away from a structure. Choose blocks large enough to handle the volume of water rushing through a downspout in a heavy rainstorm. Place blocks high enough and at an angle to divert water at least 3 feet from the foundation.
- As with downspout elbows, splash blocks save damage to the foundation by keeping water from channeling underground (below slabs, for example) and through to the interior. Water can seep through cracks in a slab and drip into a basement.
Shape up and out
- Landscaping is an effective, easy way to keep overland water at bay and make a property more attractive. Foliage helps hold soil in place, naturally enhances drainage and increases curb appeal.
- Add fill dirt with a binding material like clay around a foundation and angle away from the structure. Cover the fill with low-growing vegetation or ornamental materials, such as shredded bark or lightweight lava rock. Avoid heavier rock or landscaping gravel (unless required for drainage) to keep it from flying around during high winds.
- Don’t plant vines that grow up exterior walls. Some vines can break mortar, open cracks or grow under siding which can let in moisture or insects.
- Plant trees to add color, create visual interest, help stem erosion and improve water and air quality. Keep trees far enough from structures that they don’t pose a danger during high winds. If needed, consult tree professionals for planting tips.
Federal guidelines can be helpful during the rebuilding process but reconstruction is guided by local building codes and requirements. Before spending a weekend replanting next to a curb or along a creek bank, for instance, check with the local building office to see if a permit or inspection is required for small improvements.
FEMA’s mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.
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