Homeownership is a big responsibility. There are seemingly endless lists of general maintenance chores to keep up with in order to protect your investment. Plus, the climate is changing, and there’s a long list of ways we need to begin protecting ourselves against the payback of Mother Nature. As the number and intensity of natural disasters explode, we need to take a fresh look at how we’re building and renovating our homes and look at what we can do to mitigate damage caused by extreme weather events.
Fortunately, the most effective ways to care for your home long-term isn’t a new topic, and developers around the world are already incorporating resilience into building material selection and design. During your next home upgrade, consider your options for long-term protection of yourself and your home. Also, dedicate yourself to common upkeep practices for a well-maintained and durable home.
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Regardless of size, age or building materials, every home needs certain regular maintenance. For example, always keep an eye out for insect and rodent damage. Pests can wreak havoc on the structure of the home, weakening its protection against water and wind.
Regular inspections around the home are crucial, too. Have your HVAC system serviced twice per year, drain the water heater one to two times annually and have the septic system pumped on a regular schedule. Also, have your chimney cleaned and inspected before each burning season. Maintaining these systems can prevent floods, fires, leaks and other expensive damage.
Make timely repairs
The longer an issue goes on, the more damage it can cause, so address household repairs in a timely manner. Fix detached siding, roof leaks, chipping paint, loose deck railings and wobbly steps. Inside the home, repair leaking faucets, doors that don’t open and close correctly, torn dryer hoses and electrical issues. Any of these seemingly small issues can affect the integrity of the home.
While it’s nice to freshen up the home with new interior paint or carpet, when you make upgrades, think about the long-term benefits to the inhabitants and the environment. For example, installing more energy-efficient windows will make the space more comfortable and lower your power bill. The same goes for adding smart lighting, a programmable thermostat and energy-efficient appliances. Each of these upgrades also adds value to your home.
Plan for climate resilience
Whether you’re making small updates or building from scratch, there are many ways you can protect your home, and yourselves, against the power of nature.
For example, when replacing the front screen door, upgrade to a storm door. While improving curb appeal, add some storm shutters to the windows. Invest in storm-rated doors and windows. Basically, make every upgrade you can afford. You’ll be grateful when a storm hits, a fire rages through the neighborhood or an earthquake strikes.
Developers are using innovative advances to brace homes against rising waters, harsh winds and wildfires.
A development in Florida, known as Babcock Ranch, is one example of this type of forward thinking. The entire community was planned to withstand severe tropical storms and hurricanes the area receives all too regularly. Homes are equipped to resist damage while keeping electrical, water and Wi-Fi systems running. Power lines were buried to avoid damage from wind and lightning. Solar panels serve the entire Babcock Ranch community and all excess power produced is sold back to the grid. Floods are avoided with effective stormwater capture on the streets and retaining ponds around the development.
The neighborhood was put to the test when Hurricane Ian hit, bringing 100-mile-per-hour winds and soaking rains. The residents held steady and the homes remained completely intact, without so much as power loss, while neighboring communities didn’t fare so well.
Another master-planned community in Utah makes every effort to conserve water within the landscape of the development and within each home. The original plan relied on quality architecture and sustainable land management. Each year, the planners update their water conservation goals, incorporating and updating systems such as rainwater harvesting, widespread use of native plants and the planting of trees to minimize the urban heat island effect. The most recent updates include smart technology to identify irrigation leaks and monitor water usage.
Take your own climate-protecting steps
Whether you’re retrofitting your space or buying new, consider materials and design carefully. It may mean the difference between your home withstanding a natural event or not.
First, take into account the location. Stay away from earthquake fault lines, lava flow lanes and coastlines known for hurricanes. Check the records for 100-year flood lines, too. Also, check with your insurance company about liability for storm, flood, wind, fire and other damage.
If floods are a risk, put your house on stilts rather than having a basement. For homes on a traditional foundation, ensure good drainage away from the home.
To create a wildfire-defensible space around your home, trim all branches up six to eight feet from the ground. Keep dead grass and other burnables at least 100 feet from the home. Plant native plants. Do not stack firewood near the house and avoid wood mulch adjacent to the home as well. Also, if your property has a steep slope, space trees farther apart.
The region where the home is located will heavily impact your efforts to extend the life of your home. Whatever the situation, plan for the worst-case scenario, keep up with regular maintenance and make the best upgrades available to protect yourself and your abode.
Via NPR, Washington Post, CAL FIRE
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