Every year, nor'easters, hurricanes and other major weather events do plenty of damage to the nation's homes. Wind and rain can flood basements, wash out foundations and rip shingles from roofs. If you have had a storm like this pass through your area, it's wise to have a home inspection to check for storm repairs.
Obvious storm damage, like a broken window, is easy to spot. But, if you don't look closely, little problems could be missed and develop into big repair bills later.
Foundation Failures. Heavy accumulations of water can cause house foundations to become weak and fail. Check yours carefully by looking along both outdoor and indoor walls for any areas that may be cracked or bulging. If things look good for now, check again over the next several weeks. Water can wash out soil under the footings that hold up the house and not show up as a problem until months after the storm. Watch out for interior walls that crack or doors that get stuck. This could mean the foundation has been damaged and the house is shifting. If you see anything out of the ordinary during your home inspection, don't make any repairs yourself. Call in an expert, such as a professional home inspector, for advice before any storm repairs are started.
Flooded Fixtures. Any electrical component, like an outlet, appliance or furnace that has been below flood waters should be replaced. Contaminants in the water can cause serious damage to sensitive electrical components. Besides malfunctioning, they could even result in electrical fires. If your heating system has been flooded out, have it checked by an expert heating and cooling contractor or home inspector. In many cases, individual parts can be changed without it becoming necessary to replace the entire unit.
Basement Blues. If your basement has flooded from the storm, don't panic. Severe weather can cause even the driest basement to turn into an indoor swimming pool. Remove damaged belongings and dry the basement with fans. Then, avoid future problems by checking outside for any loose or disconnected gutters and fix any that you find. Look for washed out soil along the foundation walls. If this has happened, regrade the area by adding clean fill dirt and slope it away from the house to prevent any future storm damage.
Windward Woes. Winter winds can rip through the outer skin of your house and cause storm damage in many areas. During your home inspection, examine every side of your house from the ground. Check for loose siding, metal trim and loose soffits. If these parts are loose or missing, leaks can develop. Look for cracked, loose or broken window panes and fix any you find. Check the closers and safety chains on storm windows. Wind can cause shingles to blow off and roof antennas to collapse. Even the best roofs can leak under extreme conditions. Driving rain can "push up" under the roof shingles and result in major leaks. If this has happened, repairs may not be necessary unless the shingles have been damaged. These leaks are not likely to reoccur with normal rainfall. Also, look for loose flashing around the chimney and plumbing vents. Storm wind can loosen the flashing and cause leaks if it is not tight.
Cleaning Up. When cleaning up after the storm, be sure to use a good quality disinfectant on all floor and wall surfaces. Flood waters can be contaminated with all sorts of bacteria that can be an unwelcome guest in your home. When using commercial disinfectants, make sure you ventilate the house or use an environmentally safe mix of one cup of Borax in a bucket of hot water.
If you have been affected by a flood or storm damage and find that doing a home inspection and checking for storm repairs is more than you can handle, reach out for help. The American Red Cross has offices in virtually every county and their number is in the phone book. Red Cross workers are experts in disaster relief and can provide guidance as well as access to many programs designed to help you get back on dry land after a storm.