Seattle’s winter storms bring snow and rain, as well as winds that can gust to 60 and even 70 miles per hour.
Is your house prepared to face the Pacific Northwest’s notoriously fierce weather? Area experts have these suggestions to help you batten down the hatches.
Start now. No one wants to be up on a ladder during a January storm trying to secure loose shingles or a sagging gutter. “Now that the rains have started, check your basement for signs of water coming in and make sure your gutters are clean,” says Janet Allman, contractor liaison for the Home Owners Club in Seattle. The Club’s contractors — including plumbers, gutter-cleaning services and roof repair firms — are already responding to seasonal emergencies.
Caulk your home’s exterior. Prevent damage to walls by thoroughly sealing any gaps around windows, doors and chimneys. If your chimney is brick, inspect the flashing where the chimney meets the house and check for cracks or deteriorating mortar.
Touch up paint or stain on wood siding and trim. Unprotected wood that stays wet all winter is a prime candidate for rot. It’s late in the season, but you might be able to take advantage of a sunny weekend to protect vulnerable areas.
Inspect and clean gutters and drains. Ideally, rain from your roof flows into a system of gutters, downspouts and drains that channel moisture away from your walls and foundation. If leaves or needles from nearby trees enter the system and create blockages, water will overflow and major damage can result. As soon as the trees finish shedding, clean the gutters so rain can flow unimpeded into your rain barrel, rain garden or storm sewer.
“Don’t forget to check the downspouts as well,” says Vivian Hoppe, office manager for Paneless Window & Gutter Cleaning. She recommends adding inexpensive wire gutter screens where gutters enter the downspouts — they’ll prevent hard-to-reach blockages from forming.
Evaluate trees. If tall trees near your house or driveway are overgrown, diseased or dying, call in an arborist. An inspection will run you a few hundred dollars — far less than the cost of repairing a roof or car crushed by a fallen tree. Tree services can thin the crown of an overgrown tree, prune branches that threaten utility lines and roofs, and remove dying trees that are at risk of toppling.
Check your roof. “Just do a visual inspection from the ground and look for missing or loose shingles,” advises Jim Zapata, owner of Pro Roof LLC in Bothell. “Use binoculars, and look at the gutters, too. The best way to protect your roof is to make sure your gutter system is working.”
Tune up your heating system. “With gas and oil heaters, the important thing is to change your air filter regularly,” says Sarah Turner, service manager at Glendale Heating and Air Conditioning. Manufacturers recommend annual service visits that include inspecting the flue pipe, testing furnace efficiency and adjusting the burner if necessary. Electric heat pump systems, and wood-burning stoves and fireplaces, should also be checked. Maintenance guards against inconvenient breakdowns during the heating season, plus helps protect against air-quality problems and fires in the home.
Repair essential appliances and systems. Once a winter storm is underway, repair services will be slammed with calls and emergency rates will be in effect. If your refrigerator, freezer, stove, toilet or hot water heater are acting up, get those issues addressed now. That way, when everyone else is waiting for service technicians to brave the storm to reach them, you’ll be sipping cocoa by your (tuned-up) fireplace.