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Tips for Safeguarding Your House Against Extreme Weather

[Little Neck Road, Southampton (the day after Sandy). Photo credit: Norm Stump]

Worried about hurricane season? Are extreme weather events like Superstorm Sandy going to become the new normal? Local builder Jeffrey Collé has some advice for homeowners. Some tips can be retrofitted to existing homes, while others are better implemented when the house is being built. We particularly like the advice to go get plywood and cut it to fit your doors and windows now, instead of waiting until there's a storm approaching and everyone else is trying to get plywood.

Foundation and Basement
• Backfill the foundation with clean sand in order to keep water away from the foundation, allow for proper window drainage, and reduce basement dampness and mold.
• Properly reinforce foundation walls with pilasters every 15-to-20 feet. Wet ground can double or triple the pressure on foundation walls, causing them to bulge or even crack without adequate reinforcement.
• Install adequate waterproofing membrane to the exterior foundation walls.
• Install a permanent sump pump in the basement that turns on automatically to remove accumulated water.

• Add a permanent dehumidification system in the basement via the HVAC system in order to keep the basement dry.
• Design the basement stairwell with a dry well, a drain at the bottom of the stairs.
• Install the boiler and furnace above the floor to avoid their being flooded.
• Install a generator. It is more economical and effective to install in a house when it's being built. They can be sized to run the entire house, or at the very least, the main pathway, refrigerator and furnace.

Doors and Windows
• Use impact-resistant glass in windows and doors. The larger the pane, the more vulnerable. If glass blows in, it can be deadly.
• Reinforce garage doors. They can blow right out because they're so large, and when they fail, they make the house very vulnerable.
• Install window wells that drain properly, are easily accessible for cleaning, and are designed to prevent the accumulation of debris.
• Pre-cut plywood for all windows and doors and then store the panels so they can be quickly installed in the event of a hurricane. Hustling to buy plywood once a warning has been issued and then cutting it to fit is a losing proposition.

• Install gutters and leaders that are properly sized and that connect directly to a dry well system, which will keep water away from the foundation.
• Ensure all the flashing associated with the windows and doors is properly installed to ensure the proper waterproofing.
• Landscape in such a way that large trees, or small trees that will grow into large trees, are far enough away from house to avoid danger. Secure larger young trees with cables for up 12 months.
• Pitch outdoor decks away from the house. Decking materials should be at least 4" below the doors to avoid flooding.
· Jeffrey Collé [Official site]